Thursday, July 23, 2009


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a National group of Indian Chiefs who every three years elects a Chief to represent with one voice First Nations across the country.

Yesterday at the annual convention held in Calgary, Alberta, Chiefs gathered to elect a National Chief and because the winner has to achieve 60 percent of the vote, the election went twenty four hours and eight ballots and even then the 60% was not achieved.

The ultimate win came after the second place candidate, Perry Bellegarde conceded being just 34 votes behind Mr Shawn Atleo. At the seventh ballot, the eventual winner, Shawn Atleo from BC and Mr Bellegarde from Saskatchewan had been tied from the 3 ballot on.

Through 24 hours and at 7:30 am this morning after the eighth ballot, Mr Bellegarde conceded defeat probably due to his desire for many elderly Chiefs to get some rest.

Chief Shawn Atleo though because of the split in the AFN membership can not lay claim to a decisive win and his leadership unless he announces a prominent role within the AFN for Perry Bellegarde will be fraught with problems. Moreover, his win as National Chief came through as some voting Chiefs have said a process of exhaustion.

One wonders why the Chief electoral officer for the convention did not postpone until today the remainder of the balloting so the Chiefs could get some rest and return ready to do the necessary arm-twisting and battle it out for the remainder of the voting?

Already, many urban Aboriginals claim the AFN does not really represent them since only about 600 Chiefs are given the right to vote. Urban Indians claim that voting for their band Chiefs is already problematic as many bands are controlled by family clans and if you live off-reserve as most Aboriginals do your voting rights are not enshrined.

With only 265 Chiefs selecting Mr Atleo, his election as national chief is hardly conclusive. As of the 2006 Canadian Census there were over 1,172,790 Aboriginal people in Canada and how Chief Atleo he will proceed in being the unifying leader of Canada's First Nations is going to be very interesting to watch.

Jamie Lee Hamilton