Reigning Bearspaw chief pushes forward
Thursday, Jan 05, 2017 06:00 am
After a landslide victory, reigning Bearspaw Chief Darcy Dixon said he will focus on fixing the Nation’s problems in his new three-year term.
“The work is never done,” said Dixon.
Stoney Nakoda Nation, run by the three bands, Bearspaw, Wesley and Chiniki, face a number of social issues, including, but not limited to, unemployment rates, a Nation-declared drug crisis and financial deficits.
“The unemployment for our people is really high. Just like regular Albertans, with unemployment comes social problems, but for the First Nations people, it is more,” Dixon said.
“The sort of problems that the community faces is an ongoing problem that the Nation at a tribal level has tried to address over the years … a lot of issues seem to fall through the cracks because of the lack of funding and resources we get. If you ask Health Canada or the Department of Indian Affairs, they say they provide funding, but I think there is a misconception of what the needs are.”
Dixon explained that running a band that is being funded as one Nation and sharing government funds with two other bands can be difficult. He added he will focus on ways to make the Bearspaw band self-sufficient.
In early 2016, the Bearspaw band was making strides toward self-sustainability with discussions of opening the Bearspaw Kananaskis Travel Centre near the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino. The hope is the centre will create employment positions for 25 to 35 Nation members.
Dixon confirmed the Bearspaw band is still in discussion with the venture and they are excited to “move on” instead of “waiting for the next source of funding from any level of government.
“We need to be more proactive to fill our needs. One of the things that I’m trying to do, and my council is trying to do, is engage more with our members … we’ve been at the forefront of trying to create opportunity for our Nation members,” Dixon said.
The Bearspaw band also owns the Bearspaw Service Centre – opened in 2013. The centre features a Centex gas station, convenience store and Subway, and has generated $12 million in revenue since its opening.
In response to “transparency” comments from other candidates, in campaigning to have transparent financial records if elected, Dixon said the band hosts regular Bearspaw band meetings and encourages Nation members to attend.
“There needs to be consultation with the members, they need to see what the Nation has to deal with, they need to see our feet need to be kept on the fire,” Dixon said,
“I’m not here to say or do anything I can’t do.”
Dixon won with a total of 515 votes, 325 from Morley, 189 from Eden Valley and the only registered voter in Bighorn also voted for him. Dixon won against David Jr. Bearspaw, who had 140 votes, Johnny Ear, who had 38 votes and Georgina Rollins, who had 32 votes.
Despite social media complaints about Bearspaw members getting “denied the right to vote,” the electoral chief officer said he has not received any official complaints or appeals.