SHAWANAGA FIRST NATION – Protestors at Shawanaga First Nation have sent their grievances to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
On August 7, a group of 20 protesters marched from the community’s healing centre to the band office demanding a meeting with council.
The protest came months after council was asked through a tribunal of elders in 2011 to hold a by-election for a new chief and then call an early election for council as a whole and on the heels of a petition signed by 117 band members asking that the non-native senior staff member of the healing centre and the non-native band manager step down.
The protestors didn’t get a meeting with council they requested, and it hasn’t happened since, said spokesperson Wayne Pamajewon last Friday.
“They haven’t really called us and asked if we want to go ahead with the meeting,” said Pamajewon. “We’ve now compiled all the information that we have and we’ve sent it to Indian Affairs. So we, at this point in time, are not in the mood of meeting with the council now until we hear back from the Department of Indian Affairs.”
The band’s chief, elected during the by-election earlier this winter, stepped down late last month. Councillor Adam Pawis is currently the acting chief and, according to staff, the only person who can speak on behalf of council. Pawis hasn’t returned calls for comment. The band’s next regularly scheduled election is May 2013.
“It’s actually in our custom election code that (council) can’t go any longer than three months (without a chief),” said Pamajewon. “I guess, more or less, what the community is looking for now is for a total general election.”
The ministry confirmed that Shawanaga does have a custom election code, meaning it isn’t governed by the Indian Act.
“Because of that the department has no role in community elections or how the community governs itself,” said ministry spokesperson Brock Worobel. “At this point we’re aware the chief has stepped down and we’re satisfied essential services and programs are being delivered at the community.”
The protestors haven’t taken to the streets or met since they marched earlier this month with signs reading: “Respect us,” “Indian Agent days no longer apply here” and “Where’s the community input.”
The group planned to attend the Shawanaga Powwow last weekend to hand out pamphlets.
“We don’t want people to think that this is a witch hunt, because it isn’t,” said Pamajewon. “We’re trying to clean up something in our community which we tried to do ourselves, but obviously the political will isn’t there.”