Kenny Smith has been named Gwich’in Tribal Council President and Grand Chief with 611 votes during a Sept. 3 general election, defeating Richard John Blake, who garnered 413 votes.
He had run on a campaign of expanding investment through the Gwich’in Development Corporation and pushing for more athletic development of youth.
Meanwhile, Kristine McLeod has been elected GTC deputy Grand Chief with 551 votes, defeating former NWT Premier and two-time Grand Chief Richard Nerysoo, who collected 487 votes.
In total, 1024 votes were cast for the Grand Chief leadership vote and 1038 votes were cast in the Deputy Grand Chief vote.
However, around the time the preliminary results were released, Nerysoo announced on his Facebook page that he had called on the results to be delayed because they had been leaked on social media.
“This calls into question the election process and outcome. The Election Process must be conducted according the rules set out for the General Election,” he stated. “Should the review result in a call for a new election the results of the election will not be considered results.”
The post has since been deleted. Nerysoo told Inuvik Drum he intends to bring up his concerns with the Gwich’in Tribal Council leadership. He would not elaborate on what his concerns were, saying it was best left to the GTC.
Accepting defeat, Richard John Blake thanked his supporters for voting for him and called on the Gwich’in people to unite under the new leadership.
“I know a lot of people are not happy with the results but that’s ok,” he stated on his Facebook. “We need to support the young people that got in.”
The new leaders will have several challenges to deal with, including a final push by U.S. President Donald Trump to open the Alaskan Wildlife Reserve to oil and gas drilling, ongoing issues with the Inuvik Wind Generation project, growing the economy in the wake of Covid-19 and continuing to push for language and cultural renewal among Gwich’in of all ages.
More to come…