Ousted Salt River chief, supporters stage sit-in
Supporters of newly elected — and newly fired — Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos began a sit-in at the band council's office in Fort Smith, N.W.T., Monday night shortly after she was removed from office.
Band council passed a resolution at a meeting Monday afternoon firing Martselos, just one week after she was elected. Councillors listed 21 actions taken by Martselos thatthey consider improper, from firing staff and contractors without council's permission to blocking normal band business.
"She was alleging … wrongdoings, and that she was going to get to the bottom of it without even consulting council or even talking to council," councillor Chris Bird told CBC News on Monday. "She went about to do it her way, and autocratically, without even [the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs] as well."
The federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs sent staff to the southern N.W.T. community to mediate, but unsuccessfully. Fort Smith lies on the N.W.T.-Alberta border, about 300 kilometres south of Yellowknife.
As a result of the vote, Martselos and her supporters began staging the sit-in at the band council office, saying they would not leave.
As of noon MT Tuesday, Martselossaid she was still in the office, but added that the parties are working on a solution.
Martselos told CBC News that she has not been given a fair chance as chief, and that she has fired no one, although she did stop spending on contractors until the band's finances can be audited.
"I'm not leaving my office until an investigation has taken place," Martselos said Monday.
The band council called in the RCMP in an attempt to end Martselos's sit-in, but "the RCMP said … that this sit-in is a political statement and they can't remove her from the office," Bird said.
Officials from Indian and Northern Affairs declared the band council's meeting Monday to be legitimate, which Martselos disputes.
"Since I'm the duly elected chief, I'm the only one that was able to call a council meeting," she said. "It should not be decided by four people."
In the meantime, numerous boxes of documents Martselos had sent to Edmonton for an audit have been seized by the RCMP.
Martselos has called for a general band meeting on May 15, while Bird said the band council is now preparing for a byelection.