ÎYÂRHE NAKODA – “It’s the people’s choice,” said Chiniki First Nation Chief Aaron Young of the band’s upcoming election.
Young will be one of three candidates running for chief Dec. 8. There are 18 people running for council.
“When it comes to chief and council, it’s up to the people, it’s the people's job, it’s the people’s position,” said Young. “If they choose and select for me to run again, I appreciate that and I take that in honour and will run with it.”
Young, who was chief from 2000 to 2005 and was elected again in 2014, is up against candidates Trevis Chiniquay and former chief Bruce Labelle, who lost to Young by 38 votes in the band’s 2020 election. In 2014, Young replaced Labelle as chief with 361 votes to 185.
Running for four council seats are Brett Benjamin, Darius Chiniquay, Frank Chiniquay, Nikki Clark, Clinton Dixon, Homer Holloway, Frank Kaquitts, Gerald Mark, Jerott Mark, Eva Powder, Randal Powderface, Martin Rider, Eric Salter, Colin Simeon, Boyd Wesley, Garron Wesley and Lionel Wildman. Current Couns. Charles Mark, Verna Powderface and Boyd Wesley are also running.
Not running is Coun. Jordie Mark, who announced in a statement earlier this month he would not be seeking re-election after completing his third term in office. He said he plans to spend more time with family and coaching Canmore Collegiate High School’s Sr. boys’ basketball team full-time.
Mark urged all Nation members to be engaged in the election process and to “choose their candidates based on moral intent and not off personal quarrels.
“Moving forward, I would like to remind the citizens of not only Chiniki but Goodstoney and Bearspaw Nations as well, to be involved with your leadership and seriously consider our future as Stoney Nakoda people,” he said.
“We will face many critical challenges in the days ahead, therefore, we must stand strong and united for the betterment of our community.”
According to Chief Electoral Officer Loretta Pete Lambert, there are just over 1,000 eligible Chiniki voters in this election. In the band’s last election, 666 people voted. The total population of Chiniki, Goodstoney and Bearspaw members combined is about 6,000 people.
Pete Lambert said none of the nominations, which had to be made by Nov. 28, were disqualified through established electoral procedures. Such clauses specify that, in order to be nominated for the positions of chief or councillor, an individual must be a registered Chiniki Nation member for at least 10 years and be at least 21 years of age.
Eligible candidates must have also lived on the Nation for at least six months prior to the nomination date; provide a name-based criminal record check; not have been convicted of an indictable offence in the last 10 years; pay non-refundable fees of $500 to run for the position of councillor and $1,000 to run for the position of chief.
A person who nominates or seconds a candidate must meet criteria outlined in the respective band council resolutions and can nominate or second one person for chief and one for councillor.
Polling stations for the election will be set up in Mînî Thnî at the Stoney Tribal Administration building, in Eden Valley at Chief Jacob Bearspaw School and in Big Horn at TaOtha School from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 8. The Stoney Tribal Administration building will also host an advance voting poll Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To vote virtually on election day, voters will need to pre-register between 9 a.m. Dec. 4 and Dec. 8 at 11:59 p.m. On election day, pre-registered virtual voters will receive a virtual ballot and be able to vote between 9 a.m. until polls close at 6 p.m. To pre-register for virtual voting, visit www.efdx.ca.
Pete Lambert said an electronic ballot tabulation system will be used on election day.
“Voters will fill in the oval beside the candidates of their choice. They may choose four candidates or less for councillor and one for chief,” she said in an email. Voters must be over 21 years of age.
Pete Lambert also advised that while membership and polling clerks are familiar with most members, it is encouraged to bring identification to ensure a smooth voting process.
The Chiniki chief and council make up one-third of the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation Stoney Tribal Council, which also includes Goodstoney and Bearspaw chiefs, as well as four councillors in each band.
Last year, Goodstoney and Bearspaw held elections and re-elected chiefs Clifford Poucette and Darcy Dixon, respectively. Coun. Krista Hunter was re-elected to Goodstoney council with new councillors Thomas Dixon, Desi Ear and Watson Kaquitts.
Re-elected councillors to Bearspaw were Rod Hunter and Pierre Lefthand. Newly elected were Couns. Keith Lefthand and Amos Dacster.
CORRECTION: The Outlook reported in its Thursday (Nov. 30) print edition that advance polls would open Dec. 8, however, advance voting was open Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Outlook regrets and apologizes for this error.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.