Paul Barnsley of the Ottawa-based Native publication Windspeaker reveals major divisions within the Assembly of First Nations. In an article last week, Barnsley contends AFN national chief Matthew Coon Come is facing a credibility crisis.
Barnsley’s sources say a meeting was held at the AFN building in late January or early February where an AFN employee (who is no longer with the organization) hosted a group of AFN rebels-disgruntled employees and former employees. The plan was to form a “shadow AFN” that could access government funding and proceed on a less confrontational track.
Some of the people who attended that meeting argued against such a move, saying it would play into the government’s hands, and the attempted mutiny didn’t materialize. One other employee was asked to seek other employment after similar attempts at organizing were discovered by management.
Coon Come missed a meeting involving the AFN executive and the Indian Affairs minister in January. He was also a no-show at the Winnipeg meeting on governance on March 11 and 12.
More than one source said an attempt to force the national chief’s resignation could be made at the annual general meeting in Montreal this July. One source suggested the organization even faces the danger of not surviving until July in its present form.
With the national chief frequently missing from the national stage, Dwight Dorey, the president of the Congress of Aboriginal People, who has recently taken to calling himself the national chief, has been called the “rising star” of Indian politics in the mainstream press. That an organization that claims to represent people whether they are members or not can be taken more seriously than the national chiefs’ organization is especially galling to many AFN veterans.
Saskatchewan Vice Chief Perry Bellegarde, when asked by Windspeaker on March 22 if he was concerned with the state of the things at the national office, replied, “I’m not going to BS you, there is some concern there.”