Three candidates will run for the position of Dene National Chief this summer, election officer Lynda Comerford has confirmed.
Former Sahtu MLA and land claims negotiator Norman Yakeleya was the first to announce his candidacy via a news release published on Tuesday.
He will be joined in the race by Richard Edjericon, the former Dettah chief, and Indigenous rights activist Eileen Marlowe.
Incumbent Bill Erasmus, first elected to the position in 1987 and one of the territory’s longest-serving chiefs, has already stated he will not seek re-election.
“My name will not be on the ballot,” Erasmus told a meeting of Dene leaders in Fort Providence in February.
Nominations for the position of Dene National Chief, who also serves as regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, closed on Monday at 5pm.
Yakeleya is, so far, the only individual to publicly elaborate on their plans should they be elected.
“As Dene, our culture is the foundation of who we are as a nation. We unite as our challenges become more intense on all fronts – socially, economically, politically and personally," said Yakeleya in Tuesday's news release.
"As we do so, we are saying ‘enough!’ In Dene, we say Kut’ah. Our ancestors dealt with many obstacles in the past, yet they found the strength to stay joined and forge onwards for the good of all Dene. The agreements they made were genuine, built with integrity and honesty."
'I am ready'
Yakeleya, from Tulita, served as Chief of the Tulita Dene Band and chaired the Sahtu Tribal Council before being elected to the legislature in 2003. He subsequently served three terms representing the Sahtu.
"I am again ready to run for political office," he continued in his statement. "My campaign is for open, honest and civil dialogue. I need strong feedback from the Dene on issues that are important to them.
"I want to draw attention to health and social programming, justice, education, housing development, business investment, youth empowerment; all these are very important to the people of Denendeh."
The Dene Nation, established almost half a century ago, represents the Dene peoples of the Northwest Territories and surrounding region.
The election of a new chief will take place on August 20-24 at the Dene National Assembly, which is being hosted by the West Point First Nation outside Hay River.