Deborah Smith remains chief after physical distancing election in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation

The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop voters in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation from casting votes in the band election on Saturday.

Chief Deborah Smith was re-elected to lead Brokenhead Ojibway Nation for a two-year term, alongside four councillors.

Christopher Kent, Allen (Sam) Hocaluk, Kevin Thomas and Wendell Jr. (Ogimaa) Sinclair were elected to council.

With five opponents vying for the top spot, Smith garnered nearly half the votes. Forty-five per cent of the 510 ballots were marked in her favour.

Mail-in ballots were sent over a month ago to Brokenhead’s 700 on-reserve and 1,200 off-reserve members. Last Tuesday, the chief and council voted in favour of proceeding with the in-person vote on Saturday.

Several hundred people mailed in ballots, while about 150 people went to the polls.

Safety measures such as a protective shields, face masks and cleaning supplies were set up at the voting station. (Submitted by Burke Ratte/Turtle Nation Holdings)

Protective shields were set up at the voting station to separate polling officials and voters.

Members of the First Nation who turned out in person were given face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and their own pens to safely mark ballots.

Smith said she wants to work on making the First Nation, northeast of Winnipeg, more economically independent.

Voters in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation wore face masks and used their own pens to mark ballots. (Submitted by Burke Ratte/Turtle Nation Holdings)

The community plans to develop a large parcel of land in East St. Paul, with residential and commercial projects, she said.

“The priority has to be revenue creation and generation so we can subsidize our social needs, because right now, we’re underfunded in all areas of our governance,” she said. 

“We do want to provide jobs and training and also a place for our people to live, as well, and to give them an opportunity to be a part of that growth and development.”

Right now, though, Smith is focused on getting her community through the COVID-19 pandemic safely. 

“You know right now, we’re doing some travel restrictions in and out of our community and we are of course like the rest of the world, just wanting to get past this and hopefully come out of it a little bit wiser.”

She said she was deeply honoured and deeply humbled that community members gave her a second term. 

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