The Tsekehne Unity Movement (TUM) is a group made up of many members of the Mcleod Lake Indian Band (MLIB) and supported by the majority of Elders and Hereditary leaders. TUM is striving to restore accountability, transparency, traditional values and customs to the governance of the Tsekehne Territory. These attributes have been absent at Mcleod Lake Indian Band for some time now. Current Chief Councillor Derek Orr and Council have made no efforts to restore them and if anything have made things much worse.
The actions taken by the TUM are outlined below along with the transgressions of the current Chief and Council of MLIB. We are writing this letter to show opposition to any award that is planned to be given to Derek Orr at your assembly in the coming days.
We feel that he is totally unworthy as he has brought shame on our nation and to our ancestors through his actions during the past four years. During a recent blockade at the Band Offices, the Elders of MLIB demanded he step down to which he responded with by filing an injunction and had charges laid against Tsekehne Elders. Derek’s transgressions along with the council are as follows:
1.) MLIB Chief Derek Orr denied having signed an agreement with Terrane Metals, (now Thompson Creek Metals) regarding the Mt. Milligan Mine up until Oct, 2010 even though the agreement was actually signed on Aug, 25/2010. After much pressure the Chief released the agreement to one band member who in turn had it reviewed by a professional negotiator. The professional concluded that MLIB had signed an agreement that would only see a share of 0.5% of the mines profits in a time when other First Nations are achieving closer to 10%. The professional actually went so far as to call the agreement “Beads and Trinkets all over again”.
The agreement also amounts to a blank environmental cheque for Thompson Creek Metals and leaves many First Nations and others at risk to adverse environmental impacts due to the veto power granted to TCM under the agreement with regard to environmental issues.
2. Directly after signing this agreement the Chief and Council changed their honorarium policy to provide them with the power to pay themselves directly from the $1.5 million signing bonus that the agreement had netted them. If this deal wasn’t enough, just days after the agreement was signed two band members were approached by a band councillor and were told she had received a $10,000 signing bonus for signing the agreement. More than a year has passed and the councillor has neither denied nor disputed these allegations publicly. A large segment of the membership was outraged with this news and demanded that the council put this agreement to a ratification vote which should have been done in the first place, but the council refused and arguments were a common occurrence at band meetings thereafter.
3. A member of the Band’s 2010 negotiating team for the Mt. Milligan project, who is currently manager of a band company, parted ways with the band in 2004 amidst allegations that he negotiated in bad faith for the band in order to receive a kickback on a pipeline project. This manager along with another manager of a MLIB company are both are being paid more than $200,000/year, which is considerably higher than market value for similar positions with other First Nations.
4. The Chief and Council evicted 4 Elders from homes that have been paid for many times over and also evicted two mentally ill members. The majority of these people are being charged with contempt of court for blockading the band office including two of our eldest elders and a mentally ill member. The blockaders were asking for the Chief and Council to step down because they have many times over violated the traditions and customs of the Tsekehne people and have breached the trust of the membership.
5. The council approved a pay raise for Derek Orr to over $100,000 tax free even though the Treaty 8 Trust account is below its minimum allowable value and is not acquiring value as it should.
6. The Chief and Council were paid honoraria monthly from the Treaty 8 Trust account but as the trust is depleted they had to find money elsewhere. In 2010 a judge ordered the band could not vary its minimum annual payment to the trust in order to pay for things like council honoraria or administration as the variance would drop the per capita value of the trust for future generations by 92%.
7. The Chief and Council have authorized the clear cutting of millions of cubic metres of the membership’s prime Treaty 8 timber reserves over the last four years. This timber is being sold at rock bottom prices in order to keep paying the high salaries of company managers and band administration. The Treaty 8 lands are supposed to sustain generations to come and build the Treaty 8 Trust account, which is why this viable wood supply should be saved until the eventual recovery of the lumber market.
8. The angered membership hoped the June, 2011 General Election would bring change, however the Chief was re-elected by a much wider margin than any chief in over a decade despite the growing number of disgruntled members. The membership was confused and stunned but soon found several possible explanations for the outcome of the election such as; Council used monies from the Mt. Milligan Agreement to create a campaign video to be shown at quarterly meetings and they also created a “Membership Emergency Fund”.
The result was all but two of the councillors were re-elected, (one councillor who wasn’t re-elected supported the idea of ratification). In the wake of the election there were many cries of election fraud as many members have sworn to affidavits that they received incentives directly from Chief Orr in the form of “The membership emergency fund” with gift and fuel cards in exchange for their support. It has since been learned several members came forward in the previous election accusing Orr of buying votes. Another member reported people counting the votes who were in a conflict of interest as they were known supporters of the council.
The voters list was also inaccurate as members who did not vote were marked down as having cast a ballot. Several off-reserve band members that had never even met Chief Orr reported being visited at their homes by him where he attempted to discredit the other candidates and gain their support. It appears other candidates would pay visits to off-reserve members’ homes to gain support yet the mailing list for the membership is supposed to remain confidential.
The election was appealed on these grounds but the appeal board was appointed by Chief and Council and one board member was also in a conflict of interest. Needless to say the appeals were denied. Soon after, the election the board member in a conflict was given a raise for his work with an MLIB. The RCMP and INAC are aware of the situation at MLIB and so far have made little effort to aid in resolving these matters.
Furthermore the Nakazdli people have traditionally shared rights to the areas impacted by the Mt. Milligan project and should be treated with respect equal to that of MLIB and share equally in any benefits arising from the project or any other project that falls into a shared territory between the two nations. Some families have even attempted to contact industrial project proponents to be consulted separately from MLIB to protect their rights, but these efforts have proven futile.
All of the aforementioned actions are unbecoming and contrary to Tsekehne traditions, therefore we the Tsekehne Unity Movement demand the Chief and Councillors of Mcleod Lake Indian Band step down from office immediately. Should they choose not the TUM will take direct and decisive action against the Chief and Council and the Mt. Milligan project or any other development project in Tsekehne Territory unilaterally approved by the Chief and Council.
We believe this letter clearly explains why Derek Orr should not receive any accolades for his tenure as chief of MLIB from the AFN or any other organization supposedly advocating for a better standard of life for First Nations people. Should this letter be ignored it will send a clear message to our people; how our rights don’t matter and industrial development in our traditional territory is more important.
Tsekehne Unity Movement
Mcleod Lake, BC, V0J 2G0 Editor note; Please click on this link for historical context on blockade.