Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sask. native leaders select Lonechild new chief

Guy Lonechild is the new chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations after third-ballot voting in Saskatoon.

Lonechild, a member of the Whitebear First Nation, replaces Lawrence Joseph, who had been chief since 2006.

The FSIN is an agency that represents First Nations in Saskatchewan.

Local First Nations chiefs at the group's convention in Saskatoon took three ballots to elect Lonechild.

Joseph was standing for re-election but was eliminated from contention after the second ballot.

That left Lonechild and Sheldon Wuttunee, from the Red Pheasant First Nation, as the final contenders.

In other voting at the convention Thursday, local chiefs also selected a number of vice-chiefs for the FSIN leadership.

Among the winners was a familiar name in Saskatchewan First Nations politics: Dutch Lerat. He was elected third vice-chief.

Lerat was once the chief executive officer of a corporation known as the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which oversees a number of First Nations run casinos in the province.

Lerat was fired after a scandal erupted over spending by the agency. It was revealed that hundreds of thousand of dollars had been spent, on items ranging from trips to vehicles. Some of the spending was not authorized and some money was never accounted for.

Lerat said on Thursday that he was happy to be back in a leadership role with the FSIN.

"I'm very humbled by the support that was shown for me and some people would say getting a second chance to lead our proud organization," Lerat said. "I'm very grateful for them and the family support. And for the support from the community, from the elders, chief and council and members of Cowessess, very thankful for that."

Prior to standing for election with the FSIN, Lerat was a council member on the Cowessess First Nation.

While Lonechild and Lerat will be new to the FSIN, an incumbent vice-chief, Morley Watson, was elected to another term.

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