Interview with Chief Vernon Saddleback.
May 17, 2017
1.What advice do you have for aspiring politicians in Maskwacis if they want to enter politics?
Vernon: I believe those selected to leadership need to be able to stand comfortably in two worlds; the indigenous world and the rest of the world. So you need a good foundation in our customs and culture; a good foundation in book smarts; and mixed into that a lot of common sense.
2. As Chief, what do nation members need to know at this point in time?
Vernon: At this time I am asking Nation members for patience. Some movement has started, but Council needs time to go through orientation. Orientation will take a couple of weeks and hopefully by the end of June committees will be in place.
3. What can the people expect in the next few weeks from leadership?
Vernon: Everything starts with Accountability. Even though we are in the process of orientation at the moment, we gave the new council (who have never been in council before) the task of creating the Terms of Reference and Remuneration for Chief and Council. They are creating the “Rules” of how a committee consisting of Band members will work in figuring out what is expected of their Chief and Council and how much they should be paid. This committee will meet with Nation members at Band meetings where the people will have a say in what their leadership will make.
In the short term, I had declared the Consultation committee an internal committee and I will be doing the same with the Pow Wow committee soon. What this means is that once they are internal committees, there is a motion already in place that council will not recieve per diems for the internal meetings. Nation members will continue to recieve per diem who sit on those internal committees. However, council will no longer recieve them. This is a start in controlling how much council will be making.
4. Have all the Councilors been given their portfolios yet?
Vernon: Council will be recieving their portfolios once the orientation is completed.
5. What have, or have there been, any challenges that you have faced so far?
Vernon: My biggest challenge has been about the scope of work I need to be mindful of now. Samson Cree Nation is huge, from internal departments to our outside companies we own. When your in Council you need to focus on your vision about what you want to accomplish. If you chase everything going on with respect to the nation you will get nothing done. When I was in Council I focused on home. With one Chief and twelve Council members I would let the others focus on Ottawa and outside companies. As newly elected Chief I now have to be mindful of all and everything. I will be working with Council to make sure every aspect of Samson Cree Nation business has someone on Council focusing on it.
6. Do you have anything else you would like to mention before we end this interview?
Vernon: The last thing for now (ekosipitama) is I want to mention is my vision for the Nation. My vision is “healthy families, healthy homes.” Everything I will focus on will always come back to me making me focus on healthy families, healthy homes. I am going to, first, create a Terms of Reference for Council, because once we have accountability in place in leadership, I can expect accountability from our administration and accountability from our people. But accountability will start with Council first.
With accountability currently being worked on, Council will also have to allocate five million more in the budget process for this coming year. I believe Council will support us on spending the money on upgrading our current roads and a massive program to renovate all our aging homes. With a vision encompassing healthy homes we need to focus on mold remediation and make sure homes that do not have mold never get mold to begin with. All our building programs also include our homes in MamiwSakahikan.
Chief Vernon Saddleback