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K'atl'odeeche First Nation's new chief talks about what's next for the reserve

The new chief of K’atl’odeeche First Nation says people want to be heard, and she’s here to listen.

April Martel is the first woman to be elected chief of the First Nation

April Martel is the new chief of K'atl'odeeche First Nation. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The new chief of K'atl'odeeche First Nation says people want to be heard, and she's here to listen.

April Martel was elected Tuesday from seven candidates vying to fill former chief Roy Fabian's seat. This isn't the first time Martel has put her hat in the ring — she ran for chief against Fabian three years ago and lost by seven votes.

Martel says one of the biggest issues facing the reserve is housing, something she listed as a key part of her platform.

"I [went] door to door and speaking to people, getting this out there that this is what we need, and I think that's why people voted for me," she said.

During her campaign, Martel also listened to what the people want, and listed those concerns as what will make up her first priorities. That includes education, jobs, training, keeping language and culture alive and fighting the impacts of alcoholism and addiction. Not to mention, of course, the ever contentious "cows and plows" federal agricultural benefit.

"It is next on [the chief and council's] agenda," said Martel.

"In order for us to move forward … it needs to be dealt with. It needs to be looked at. It has divided our people so badly and we need to look forward."

First female chief

Martel's win is also a milestone — she is first woman to be elected as chief of K'atl'odeeche First Nation.

Martel says she thinks it's a great achievement and she hopes to see more women in leadership, because she believes women make great leaders. She extolled the virtues of female leaders as not only people hardwired to make sure things are taken care of but are also willing to simply sit and listen.

"They are out there volunteering their time and putting it out there in the community," she said.

Men care a lot as well, but women just put it out there.- K'atl'odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel

"Men care a lot as well, but women just put it out there — the motherly love that they put in their community — that's what people see."

Martel hopes her win, along with a smattering of other big wins for women on the municipal level across the territory last month, inspires other women to get into politics. On Oct. 15, voters elected female mayors in Inuvik, Fort Smith, and Yellowknife, and one was acclaimed in Hay River.

"This is what I want to see for women — strengthen each other and open the eyes of the younger women in our community," she said.

Martel's term as chief of K'atl'odeeche First Nation will last three years.

With files from Lawrence Nayally

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