There’s an old adage that sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief candidate Richard John Blake says he wanted to dial back the clock in how the organization worked with its membership and other councils.
“The band councils are not getting looked at,” he said. “They’ve been getting put on the side and they’re not recognized.
“We need to get everybody voting together and not apart.”
Blake said communication and a lack of respect between governing bodies were the main problems facing the Gwich’in people and the GTC has an important role to play in finding more harmony among its membership.
Other issues he said would reveal themselves when he took office, noting a lot of the major issues get discussed behind closed doors.
“You’ve really got to get in there and find out,” he said. “What I know is the people are not being listened to. They’ve got to be listened to. They’re the ones you’ve got to take direction from.
“Right now, if you ask what is going on in your Designated Gwich’in Organization or whatever, you don’t get any answers.”
To deal with the communication issues, Blake said the first thing he would do if elected would be to travel to each community and listen to the concerns of residents to put together a plan to address them.
“There’s going to be a lot of different issues,” he said. “Everyone should have an equal say. That way we can avoid big arguments.”
With 13 years experience as a councillor in Fort McPherson, a career in NWT Housing and a stint with Tetlit Gwich’in Council, Blake has a pretty wide view of the challenges being faced by people through the Gwich’in Settlement Area.
Overall, Blake said his main goal was to strengthen the unity between all Gwich’in and try to walk the relationships between band councils and DGOs back to an earlier model.
“That’s the whole thing. I want people to try to get together and be back to normal as it used to be,” he said. “Before the land claims.
“I would like to see people back together. Talking together, laughing together, that’s what I want to see. It’s not there now.”
Blake added he hoped the election was a nice and clean one, and requested none of the candidates use smear campaigns or other forms of verbal abuse to get ahead in the polls.
He noted when the dust settles, everyone would still be Gwich’in and would have to find a way to get along, so it was wiser to not insult people during the election.
“Nobody say anything that could lead to bad feelings about one another,” he said. “Just be yourself and enjoy life.”
Election Day is Sept. 3.