The Yellowknives Dene community of Ndilǫ has elected Fred Sangris as its new chief. Sangris defeated the incumbent, Ernest Betsina, by 49 votes.
Official results were announced late on Monday evening. Sangris received 141 votes, Betsina 92, and fellow challengers Shirley Tsetta and Cece Beaulieu garnered 62 and 61 respectively.
Reached by Cabin Radio on Tuesday morning, Sangris said he felt “really, really happy.”
“It’s been almost two months on a campaign trail, and I’ve been talking to people, visiting, and doing a lot of things,” he said. “It was a big relief off my shoulders last night after the win. I said, ‘Oh, boy, this is it.’
“I’m so happy, my family is happy. A lot of membership who came out were very happy as well. I was so excited.”
Sangris worked for many years as chief negotiator for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in the Akaitcho land claim process. In previous conversations with Cabin Radio he said finalization of those negotiations is a priority, as is revitalizing the local economy, improving local infrastructure, and protecting the Bathurst caribou herd.
He reaffirmed those commitments on Tuesday.
“We all agree that the Akaitcho land claim agreement is the number-one priority and that’s our goal, to get that work done,” he said.
“We don’t really have an economic base in both communities, even though we’re in one of the biggest cities in Northwest Territories. A mixed economy is growing right next to us, and we’re really not part of it. I’m hoping that the Yellowknives Dene will step right into it and take advantage of the business, as well as tourism.
“We’re no longer hunters and trappers of the land. We’re going to be pursuing our people to do more in other areas to get out of poverty, get into the economy, have good paying jobs, and hoping that they will also have a good homes to live in, as well.”
A five-day appeal period is now in progress. If no appeals are received, Sangris will be sworn in as chief.
“I work for everyone – whether they voted for me or not,” Sangris said.
“I want to thank everyone who came and voted, and I hope that we can build a new relationship from here on and get moving forward.”