The people have spoken.
After six years under the leadership of Ted Moses, the Grand Council of the Crees – and the people of Eeyou Istchee – will look to a new era of cooperation, new ideas and perhaps most importantly, change.
Whapmagoostui’s Matthew Mukash and Mistissini’s Ashley Iserhoff were elected to the post of Grand Chief and Deputy Grand Chief, respectively, in the highly charged September 15 run-off election.
“I’m looking forward to a new era in the Cree Nation,” Mukash said shortly after the win. “I really want to thank everyone who supported me in Eeyou Istchee.”
Mukash garnered 3,236 ballots for 55.9 per cent of the vote in the run-off election after he fell short of the required 50 per cent plus one vote in the first ballot Aug. 31. Eastmain’s Moses captured 2,506 votes, or 43.3 per cent, of the 5,789 total ballots cast.
Mukash was running on a very different platform than the incumbent. Finding a way to save the Rupert River by utilizing the vast wind power in Eeyou Istchee and moving the Grand Council offices closer to home were two of the main planks of his winning platform.
“My major platform is the nation-building approach to economic and social development,” Mukash told the Nation in a previous interview. “One of the most valuable industries in my mind is wind power, because in Hudson Bay we’re sitting on the type of climate that the wind is the strongest.”
Mukash has left his job as CEO of Whapmagoostui’s development corporation to assume the leadership position.
At a certain point the election deteriorated to the lowest common denominator. Accusations flew, names were called and one person even went on a local radio show to essentially say that Matthew Mukash should not be elected because of his religious beliefs – a tactic which seemed to work in that community.
Fear mongering was also a big part of the campaign. Moses went so far as to write about “what’s at stake” on his website if he lost. Under that heading, he warned the people that if they didn’t vote for him, the Cree Nation, as people know it, would cease to exist.
Moses’ official website cautioned the people that they could lose the annual $70 million they are currently receiving from Quebec if they did not retain his leadership. He also warned that many things, including expanded health care services, Cree police officers and even expanded funding for social services for “issues such as suicide prevention,” would be a thing of the past if he were defeated.
Unfortunately for Moses, the people didn’t buy it.
“I hope we can work together to move forward as a nation at this new stage,” said Mukash, whom some people fear will rip up the Paix des Braves Agreement signed with Quebec in 2002 because he didn’t support it.
“I’m not against the agreement or development, I was against the way it was done,” he said. “The people needed more time to digest an agreement of that magnitude.
“One of the things I want to do as the leader of the Crees is to bring the decisions back to the people and give them enough time to make the proper decision.”
Ted Moses was reached by phone but did not comment.
In the race for Deputy Chief, Ashley Iserhoff edged Losty Mamianskum by a 2,960 to 2,788 score.
Iserhoff was reached shortly after the election. “I’m happy, I’m just going to let it sink in right now,” he said. “I’m tired. It’s been a long road down the campaign trail but it was worth it.
“I’m looking forward to working with the people as Deputy Chief.”