Kenny Smith may be running for Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief, but if he wins he’s hoping to get everyone running in some capacity.
High on his list of priorities is education, attributing most of his 15-year career in mining to having a Bachelor of Management degree, with a double major in Accounting and Finance. Smith said he would like to expand opportunities for GTC beneficiaries to further their education in both trades and academics, but also their athletics.
“If you look enough into any leader, at some point you will generally see a sports background and working in teams, working together,” he said. “It’s very important.”
With a background in mining and also a bit of experience in telecommunications, the Gwich’in Settlement Corporation vice-chair and current manager of corporate affairs for BHP has taken leave to run and is currently in isolation in town. During his time with BHP and previously with DeBeers Canada, he negotiated over 11 opportunity agreements between First Nations and Industry and also managed the implementation of the Socio-Economic Agreement for the Snap Lake Mine with the GNWT.
Smith said he has been involved in Gwich’in community work for a long time, going back to when he was 14 years old harvesting caribou for the original celebrations of the signing of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. He grew up in Inuvik and Fort McPherson.
One area Smith said he wanted to focus on was revitalization of culture and language, looking for new ways young people can learn on the land and helping all Gwich’in reconnect with their traditions. Smith said he would push for more on the land training for youth and incorporating more technology into passing knowledge through generations. He added participation of Elders at every step of the way was paramount.
He also pledged to push for more wealth creation, by providing business guidance to the Gwich’in the Development Corporation but also providing support to entrepreneurs in the Gwich’in Settlement Region through access to capital and training. He also would seek out outside projects the Gwich’in Development Corporation could invest in to bring in more money.
But first on his list of priories would be to enact organizational reviews and ensure the government apparatus is giving membership the services they want.
“There needs to be some plans in place to conduct a visioning exercise at the community level and the regional level, to see how each of the four Gwich’in communities and non-participant membership can work together and actively support the organization,” he said. “With my business and management background, I would be working with the management team to conduct an operational review to see how we’re providing services and whether there’s opportunities to improve.
“A major piece right now is unity and getting all of our communities and non-resident participants pulling in the same direction and working more effectively together. Once we can do that anything is possible.”
Noting he is a husband, father and grandfather, Smith said he felt it was important to run because he had the abilities he felt the GTC needs at this point in history.
“I’m Gwich’in first and I would like to see our people succeed. At the end of the day that’s what I would like to achieve — increase the opportunities for not only our participants but also people in the Mackenzie Delta region.
“Some of that will entail collaboration with organizations such as the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. But I really see plenty of opportunity to provide my skills and expertise for the benefit of Gwich’in participants and our communities.”
Gwich’in Tribal Council’s election day is Sept. 3.