Band Chiefs largely to blame for poor housing, education on reserves

“The last straw for many of them…  was the council’s refusal to disclose the band’s finances after a document surfaced showing Benuen tapping into the band’s trust account to the tune of almost $200,000. ”

“…we, the people of Sheshatshiu have lost confidence in the Sheshatshiu Innu First National organization ….”  – Band member petition.

How charming, after the countless millions of dollars we pay into these reservations, only to find the Chief and prominent band members siphoning off subtantial amounts of money for their own purposes. 

Below we have the story of one group of band members who are sick and tired of being abused in this way.  The Chief pays himself $130,000 a year, tax-free.  And there are indications that when people began to complain to the local radio station, it was the Chief’s wife who smashed up the transmitting equipment – all paid for by us taxpaying suckers down south, of course.

And we are supposed to beat ourselves over the head because of this?  The only way that ‘we’ are to blame is for allowing the Band Chiefs to use the money as they see fit, and to set their own salaries.

The sooner the government’s impending ‘disclosure’ legislation is passed into law the better.  And as it will not stop the Chiefs from setting their own pay, it will have to be monitored constantly and not just forgotten about.

The amount of money we allow to be wasted by the aboriginal leadership is absolutely intolerable.

A late friend of mine, of mixed Indian and Irish ancestry from Manitoulin Island, told me once that he had no respect for Indians who lived on reserves, and that the sooner they left them and moved into the cities the better off they would be.  He was proud of his Indian side, but he had no illusions about it.  I wish he was here now to tell us what he thinks of the absolutely atrocious conditions that have resulted in the Canadian Red Cross having to go into one reserve recently, despite the tens of millions of funds provided for housing in just that one reserve alone.

Many people are becoming sick and tired of the Indians, particularly those who come into town for the winter, to get welfare and subsidised housing, and then go back to their reserves for the summer. 

And I for one have had it with paying for this endless abuse both of the bandmembers, and of the taxpaying working stiffs who are forced to pay for it.

Jeff Goodall.

Efforts to remove controversial Innu chief to be heard by Federal Court

Toronto Star
Richard J. Brennan: Nov. 30th, 2011

A bitter fight to replace a Newfoundland and Labrador Innu community’s chief and band council over alleged financial irregularities is going to Federal Court, the Toronto Star has learned.

An injunction to prevent an early Dec. 15 election was to be filed in Federal Court on behalf of Chief Sebastien Benuen and the six-person band council.

“I am just waiting for the injunction to arrive,” said lawyer James Goodwin on Wednesday. Goodwin is representing the dissident residents of Sheshatshiu who agreed earlier in November to hold an election in December, 18 months early, in an attempt to oust the unpopular Benuen.

Benuen could not be reached for comment.

However, in his affidavit filed Wednesday with the Federal Court, Benuen denied all accusations.

The last straw for many of them, says Goodwin, was the council’s refusal to disclose the band’s finances after a document surfaced showing Benuen tapping into the band’s trust account to the tune of almost $200,000.

“People need to see the books because that’s the people’s trust fund,” resident Max Penashue told the Star, adding that Benuen acting more like a “dictator” than a band chief.

It’s hard not to notice Benuen when he drives around the community in his red Ford 150 extended cab pickup truck. It’s just another thing that sticks in the craw of many residents of Sheshatshiu, about 45 minutes northeast of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, who are determined to run Benuen, whose salary alone is $130,000 a year, out of office sooner than later.

The community was taken aback when the chief sent a letter to the Bank of Montreal branch in St. John’s asking for a “payout … in the amount of $20,000 each” for two unnamed members of the community for their “services,” plus an additional “$50,000 in administration fees to compensate (Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation) for the additional costs incurred with these payouts” — plus an additional “$90,000 for administration fees.”

Some 500 residents, or about half the community, signed a petition stating that “we, the people of Sheshatshiu have lost confidence in the Sheshatshiu Innu First National organization ….”

When angry residents burned up the local radio station’s telephone lines with complaint after complaint, the chief’s wife Taniana Benuen supposedly marched down and destroyed the equipment, according to local residents and media reports. The station is still off the air.

This is not the first time Sheshatshiu has made national headlines. A decade ago it was plagued with gasoline sniffing but Penashue says that is no longer a problem. The community has long suffered from a high rate of alcoholism, violence and suicide.

“The problems at Sheshatshiu are numerous,” Goodwin said.

See original here.

See the Winnipeg Free Press take here.

See “Natives deserve disclosure from their chief” (National Post) here.

See my “First Nations Issues” category here.