Derek Nepinak re-elected Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' grand chief
Derek Nepinak has been re-elected as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Nepinak, who has held the position for the past three years, garnered more votes in the first round of voting Wednesday than his rivals, Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavan Fontaine and Sheldon Kent of the Black River First Nation.
Nepinak received 26 votes, Fontaine had 16 votes and Kent had six, the CBC's Jillian Taylor reported from the AMC's general assembly on Swan Lake First Nation territory in Headingley, Man.
Shortly after the results were announced, chiefs lined up to congratulate Nepinak on his second term as grand chief.
"I'm very honoured, I'm very humbled to be tasked," he later told reporters.
"I'm nothing more than a servant in this process and I relinquish anything that I know to the process. I relinquish everything to what my task is ahead."
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents about 60 First Nations across the province.
Since he was elected grand chief in 2011, Nepinak was active in the Idle No More movement, raised awareness about treaty rights, and spoke out against the federal government's proposed First Nations education act, which is now on hold.
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Nepinak said he wants to see the AMC and First Nations become more financially independent from government.
"We cannot win the day, win the hearts and the minds of our people riding on programs and services that are controlled or contained under Indian Act policies and law, nor in provincial policy and law," he said.
"We need to move forward together, we need to find collective ways of capitalizing on the economic value that we bring as indigenous people here in Manitoba."
All three candidates had presented campaign speeches on Tuesday, including Nepinak, who had to step down as grand chief in order to run.
The speeches were disrupted at one point when a group of Sagkeeng First Nation members displayed a large banner, expressing their lack of support in Fontaine.
Following Wednesday's vote, Fontaine announced that he would be resigning as Sagkeeng chief.
"Thank you all, and I want to say this: I will be stepping away from the circle. It was an honour to be amongst you for eight years," he told the chiefs.
"I will be tendering my resignation at Sagkeeng; it could be days, it could be weeks."
'I'm done,' says Fontaine
Fontaine later told CBC News he is stepping away from the AMC's leadership table, and he will not seek re-election when his term as Sagkeeng chief ends.
"I'm wrapping things up in my community and I've told them this is my last term. My community members have known this is my last term," he said in an interview.
"I'm done. I'm stepping back from politics, and I look forward to spending time with my family and life in the private sector."
Fontaine said the protest on Tuesday did not factor into his decision.
He has been chief for the past eight years, but he said he now looks forward to working in government or industry.
"My first preference was to work for my people, and that didn't work out, so now I go into the private sector," he said.
"If it is government, if it is industry, I'll take anything provided it is decent and ethical work and it is respectful of our people and respectful of our environment."