Re-elected SSI chairperson Charlie McNeely

Charlie McNeley speaking at the SSI AGM election for chairperson. (Anonda Canadien/CKLB Radio)

Charlie McNeely has been re-elected as the chairperson for the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated (SSI). This was announced at the SSI Annual General Meeting held in Deline last week.

McNeely got 28 votes and his competitor Ronald Pierrot got none.

Pierrot spoke about the importance of young people and culture, the importance of language, more information being shared to the communities, employment opportunities for young people and remediation projects.

CKLB reached out for an interview while there covering the SSI AGM with re-elected chairperson McNeely.

In the election, McNeely had unanimous votes which hasn’t happened before. 

“I think the people were happy with what I’ve done. When I ran the last time, was bringing people together. I think when you bring people together you make a strong team. When an Elder tells you, you’re on a team of dogs. And out of those dogs you’re going to pick the one that listens the best. He’s going to be the leader. And the one that works the hardest is going to be the heel dog,” says McNeely. “We’re a team, and I’m the spokesperson for that team. I don’t do anything on my own without the board’s notice. So I think that’s why they have a lot of trust in me.”

McNeely plans to focus on education, health, housing and economic measures. On education, McNeely says they want to educate the youth on ‘both sides, the Whiteman way and the native way’. 

“We talked about the 40 million that’s coming through, it’s going to come through SSI, and SSI is going to be the one that’s distributing it out to the land corps. So they make the decision on how they want the money to be spent for their beneficiaries,” says McNeely on the funding coming in, they’re looking into mobile homes for people. He didn’t clarify where the mobile homes would be coming from.

The 40 million that’s coming in will be spent over four years, “So each year we’re going to make different decisions on how they wanna spend that money. It’s for the benefit of the people.”

On deciding where to spend the money, McNeely further explained how the SSI has seven Land Corps but Deline is self-governing so they get their own pot of money whereas the six other Land Corps will be deciding on how to spend the funding. 

SSI also got COVID funding which was distributed to each Land Corp based on per capita. 

“Some of them are giving out fuel, grocery money. When they give out grocery money you get a purchase order…they pay your power bill, they pay your water bill. If anything is left over, they’re gonna find a way to spend it back into the community.” McNeely speaks on his own experience of Fort Good Hope.

“I think so far we’ve distributed three pots of money out. We got some COVID money for people to go out on the land, so we gave out lots of gas to people to go out on the land, groceries. And, you know, whatever they needed.”

The money is automatically given to each household regardless of the number of people that may be in that household and there’s no need to apply for it. 

“I think it’s fair, everybody gets a thousand dollars worth of fuel… We just heard on the news not too long (ago that) Good Hope is the highest place to live in the Northwest Territories. So I can say, people are happy with what they receive. At least it puts bread and butter on the table for them.”

On working on health care, McNeely says “we could have banquets to attract more people in for COVID shots… you go around, you get the concerns from each board member before the board meeting and then we go meet with our MLA then we meet with our MP. Good things start coming out after you start supporting one another.”

This past summer, the Sahtu held culture camps in all communities for the youth. 

“We’re kind of all on the same page, we all want to see our youth blossom into a whole garden full of beautiful flowers. Get them educated, get them Red Seal, some of them might want to be a dentist and nurse and all this. But, you got to take one step at a time, you can’t take one big jump right off the earth.”

McNeley says that information needs to keep flowing throughout the whole Sahtu, “After elections are over I got a lot of texts from people congratulating me and I really want to thank a lot of them, all the Sahtu for their support and all our board members,” says McNeely. “I got lot of support from the board because they say information needs to flow and information stops at me, the board don’t know what I’m doing. Keep that flowing, keep information flowing to their beneficiary, not only to the board members all the whole Sahtu, share information…the people spoken and happy that they gave me this to do. I enjoy working for them.”