Vote sees First Nation chief stay on
Lorraine O’Brien is vowing to continue her push to have Eddie Skookum, chief of the the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation,
Lorraine O’Brien is vowing to continue her push to have Eddie Skookum, chief of the the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, ousted from office after elders voted 14-9 Saturday to have him stay on.
“We’re going to continue to fight,” O’Brien said in an interview this morning.
Skookum’s leadership came into question last summer over the assault of his 21-year-old girlfriend who was found bloodied and unconscious in a motel parking lot in Haines, Alaska.
Originally charged with felony assault and impaired driving, the 56-year-old chief pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless endangerment of life. He was sentenced to time served and ordered to attend counselling.
Since the matter first became public, there have been numerous calls from within the First Nation for Skookum to resign. It’s been argued that by continuing to act as chief, a message is being sent that violence against women is acceptable.
In September, local women’s groups stated their support of O’Brien’s call for Skookum to step down.
“We are calling on all leaders, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to be strong and united in asserting that there is absolutely zero tolerance for violence against women,” read the statement released by the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Yukon Status of Women Council and Les EssentiElles.
“We are asking them to request the immediate resignation of elected representatives that have been convicted for violent crime.
“This kind of legislation is needed in all governments in Yukon, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, for credibility with citizens and the protection of victims and their families.”
After Saturday’s meeting where the elders voted, O’Brien said, many may now view her First Nation as condoning violence.
Her husband, Coun. Joseph O’Brien, has resigned to show he strongly condemns violence against women, she said.
In September, Joseph stated: “Violence against women has to stop. We can’t let people think it is OK.”
Lorraine said this morning she would like to see other council members take a stand on the matter as her husband has.
She and others who have pushed for Skookum’s resignation plan to seek further legal advice, she said, pointing to a number of issues over Saturday’s meeting.
“We didn’t feel the meeting was conducted in the right way.”
As she noted, she and others weren’t given an opportunity to voice their opinions about why Skookum should be ousted.
The group’s petition, bearing 67 signatures in favour of getting rid of Skookum, was also pushed aside. That happened despite the First Nation’s constitution stating that only 40 names are needed to oust a chief from office.
Lorraine also argued there were a number of elders confused by what they were voting on and, in one case, younger family members weren’t allowed to assist the elders.
She also took issue with Skookum’s mother and grandmother being able to vote on his leadership, arguing that could constitute a conflict of interest.
Lorraine also noted there are a number of First Nation members who don’t live in Carmacks who couldn’t make it to Saturday’s meeting and thus didn’t get to vote.
While Lorraine and others looking for Skookum’s depature plan to seek legal advice on the matter.
The chief’s supporters cheered and applauded after the vote result was announced, with some chanting his name and approaching him to congratulate him.
Reached this morning, Skookum declined to comment except to say he would send out a news release this afternoon.