Gerald Antoine elected Dene National chief

Gerald Antoine was elected the new Dene National Chief after he received 128 votes against 88 for his rival, incumbent National Chief Norman Yakeleya.

Antoine beat incumbent National Chief Norman Yakeleya in the Dene Nation's first ever virtual election

Gerald Antoine was elected Dene National Chief on Dec. 9, 2021, beating out incumbent Norman Yakeleya. Antoine will also serve as the N.W.T. Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

Gerald Antoine is the new Dene National Chief.

Delegates cast their ballots online and the results were announced Thursday.

Of the 216 votes cast, Antoine received 128, beating out incumbent National Chief Norman Yakeleya who received 88.

Alan Cash, the returning officer, said voter turnout was high at 76 per cent.

Call for unity

In his acceptance speech, Antoine thanked Yakeleya for the commitment he made as National Chief for the past three years.

"It's time that we, as a family, that we begin to visit and talk to each other, and see where we're going," he said.

He called on elders and young people, many of whom went to university, to be part of the community and play a significant role as the Nation rebuilds and moves forward.

"We need to look at how we're going to thrive as a Dene family," Antoine said calling on leadership and every Dene First Nation to work together.

Rebuilding nation 

Yakeleya was gracious in defeat.

"It's been an honour since 2018 to serve as your chief," he said.  "I respect the vote. I respect what the people's wishes are."

Yakeleya called Antoine a worthy rival on two occasions in his concession speech.

"He's a good man and his heart is in the right place," said Yakeleya.

Incumbent Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said he respects the Dene Nation's vote and asked everyone, during his concession speech, to support the new national chief. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

He said the Dene Nation is in the rebuilding stages and everyone should support the new national chief.

He said the Nation is well prepared to deal with the issues the new chief will have to face, though he didn't provide specifics.

"We need to continue to pray for each other as we rebuild the Dene Nation," said Yakeleya.

As the new Dene National Chief, Antoine will also serve as the N.W.T. Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

Antoine is a veteran Dene politician. He was born in Fort Simpson and was Chief of the  Łı́ı́dlı̨ Kų́ e First Nation until earlier this year. He has also served as Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations.