[The following statements are reflective of my personal minutes taken at a Chief and Council meetings on March 26th 2013 and April, 9th 2013. The statements made by my colleagues are paraphrased to the best of my memory. The circumstance, decisions made, and intentions of what is written here is all true.]
“Chief, what about the $10,000 travel, is it ready? I want it to be used to repay advances” One of the councilors asked. There were four others on council including myself plus the chief. I felt ethically and morally conflicted during my four-year term as headman to my community. I finished my term in 2016.
“Is the budget ready?” the chief asked the head of finance. “If council wants it now I can make cheques this afternoon” he replied. I looked at my colleague to see his expression. He was as perplexed as I was. We were two years in and we were the only two new faces who were elected to these positions. It was new, although both of us have had our own unique political experiences as well as our own histories in working with other communities. He was one I relied on for input and reassurance. It was later revealed that he too was morally and ethically conflicted, which ultimately and understandably lead to his resignation.
According to past council decisions over the last 15 years or so, council was to receive $10,000 travel every new fiscal year. My colleague after much discussion refused the $10k and requested it be put to the debt. As for myself, knowing full well that our band had no such financial policy that delegated how our financials were to be managed, knew that the money would be used however council seemed fit.
It must be noted that two individuals on council plead guilty to theft and were also re-elected. With a toxic history and breach of trust between the leadership and the people of my community, I thought critically of this situation. I tabled my decision regarding this 10k and stated that I would bring my decision to the next meeting.
The next week the meeting was postponed and I discovered a cheque in my mailbox at the band office for $18,750 which included the previous year and current year at the time. It sat for almost 6 months as I visited elders, mentors and people within my community. Almost everyone said to take that money and put it to something for the community because it would be mismanaged if I didn’t.
So I went to the bank and opened a high interested savings account and titled it, “playground”. The clerks at the bank are very personable and really seemed to understand the situation. I made this intention public and posted a statement regarding this decision. Almost every band meeting I included a printout of the account with the additional money that was fundraised.
As part of fundraising, we did a leadership workshop in Regina and a portion of the money made was put into the playground fund, we also received numerous donations from people both locally and internationally. The school organized an event called “Voices of the Valley”, which all together brought it up to around $27,000.00 dollars fundraised.
I was vigilant and did everything I could to protect this money from corruption that obviously plagued my community. I didn’t want any mishaps, any financial obstacles that tend to frequently happen within band office administrations. This was my private account driven by a prayer and intention. I can only be so grateful and lucky to have amazing support people, particularly those working at the school who really took the lead in organizing, helped in fundraising, and consulted with students in the selection of a playground.
The irony is that the playground company’s general manager, who the school staff were in contact with allegedly stole the deposit money that was sent awhile back. With so many “delays” that have already occurred to our school having a playground, someone who isn’t even from our community steals the money.
However, the playground company made it up to our community and has sent the new playground as if they have received the deposit. So my community, after several years, now has a playground and will continue to work to pay off the remaining money that is owed. Luckily the playground company has a new general manager for our area that went above and beyond to make this right. An article in Eagle Feather News goes into detail here:
Let the Children Play Initiative
To continue to support the children of my community, I will be donating %7 percent of the revenue received from every workshop under the Ahkamêyimok Program. Which includes RIZE, RIZE 2.0, RI3E and the Ahkamêyimok Intensive Retreat [A.I.R retreat]. This will go to assist the band in continuing to pay off new playground.
We have seen so many people go into these systems and come out distressed and even troubled. People can’t change systems from within, people change within systems. It’s actually a system-based approach that will create long lasting change. To be able to see systems for what they are and have the ability to apply a system-based approach will definitely provide leverage for anyone who is working at a community level.
The Ahkamêyimok program was developed in 2013 during my experience as an elected official. I really began to link the deficiency in emotional intelligence of those who work in systems that are associated with our Indigenous communities. It was revealed how corrupt and stressed systems require the emotional shutdown of those who are working within those systems, in order for corrupt/stressed systems to be maintained and continue to exist. I’m really concerned about our young people who are motivated and driven to go into these systems with a vision of creating change – without any training, insight, or knowledge around how systems actually function. The aim is to provide individuals and teams with supports, tool kits, and training experience to be successful, by their definition, in creating and maintaining long lasting change in what ever their passion directs them.
To read up more on the first phase of this program, RIZE, click the link:
[artwork: Landis Roan, IG: Kiwadraws]