Gerald Antoine has been elected to a three-year term as Dene National Chief, defeating incumbent Norman Yakeleya.
Yakeleya received 88 votes to former Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ chief Antoine’s 128, returning officer Alan Cash announced in a Zoom call also broadcast live by CKLB shortly after 5:30pm on Thursday.
There was a turnout of 76 percent, with 216 ballots cast and no spoiled ballots.
Antoine, who was born in Fort Simpson, was Chief of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation until earlier this year. He has also served as Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations.
“I’d like to really thank the Dene people, the Dene family, and – particularly tonight – those people that came out to vote. I’d like to thank you for making history,” said Antoine.
“I’d also like to thank Norman for the commitment that he made in the past three years and the things that he began to open up. He went out there and called out to the rest of the Dene people … to begin to get together. The Dene is a big family and it’s been a while that we all got together.
“However, it’s time that we as a family begin to visit and to talk with each other, to see how we are all doing.
“We need to come together, to take ownership … we need to look at how we are going to thrive.”
Yakeleya, the former Sahtu MLA, succeeded longtime Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus in 2018.
“We work for the people and they have spoken,” Yakeleya said. “The Dene Nation is in the rebuilding stages and has a very good team of workers, and it’s been an honour to work with them and to go through the journey with them. The Dene Nation is well prepared to deal with many of the things that the new elected chief will be embarking on.
“We are here to support him. He is a good man and his heart is in the right place. We should all support and congratulate him.”
Online polling opened on December 1 and closed at 5pm on Thursday.
The election was postponed from its original September date due to the NWT’s fall Covid-19 outbreak.
“It has been a very dynamic past couple of months,” said Phil Moon Son, the Dene Nation’s chief executive officer, noting this was the first online election held by the organization.
The vote for a new chief was initially scheduled to take place during the Dene Nation’s annual assembly, which had been set for September 14 to 16 in Fort Simpson but is now taking place early in 2022.