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South Slave

Money for Elders a priority as Poitras takes over at Salt River


David Poitras wasn’t planning on running for chief of the Salt River First Nation, but people kept asking him – and he finally said yes.

Poitras beat Ronald Schaefer in the September 16 election for the Fort Smith-based First Nation.

First on Poitras’ agenda is to pass the First Nation’s budget for the current fiscal year, which runs from April 1, 2019 until March 31, 2020.

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Former chief Frieda Martselos tried four times to pass the budget in the spring and summer, but the First Nation's membership voted down the budget each time.

As a result, Salt River's ability to spend money has been severely limited. Poitras said the organization has been “just surviving."

“We’re planning on having a meeting as soon as possible,” said Poitras. “There are some longstanding issues for Elders. They receive a little bit of help every summer, and they haven’t received it yet. There are about 60 Elders who haven’t gotten it yet."

Political turmoil at the First Nation has been a feature of the past decade.

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Poitras, who has traded the leadership with Martselos several times since 2007, said he was going to work on restoring the peace.

“We need to work on unity for people. There have been many divisions in the past and it’s just killing us,” he said.

“It’s hard to move ahead when factions are not working together."

He told Cabin Radio he plans to increase the First Nation's focus on education, particularly in the areas of training, social, and sports development.

“And the Elders haven’t had a real role in Salt River for a long, long time,” he continued, “so I’m going to try to get an Elders' advisory circle going.

“They can meet three or four times a year and give us some direction on where they think we need to go in terms of culture and tradition.”

Other items on Poitras' to-do list include the completion of two homes, continued development of Salt River land, setting up a water pump station, and planning for the future of the homeless shelter.

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