By Colin Graf
AAMJIWNAANG—Voters have elected the first woman Chief in this Sarnia-area community’s history. Former Justice of the Peace (JP), Joanne Rogers received more than four times the votes than her nearest challenger in the election held Friday, July 15, 2016.
Rogers will replace current Chief, Chris Plain, who has served in the post for 12 years. Plain chose to step down and run for councilor, a post he won easily, scoring the most votes out of 25 candidates for nine spots on Council.
Communicating clearly with members is a priority, Rogers told Anishinabek News. She has heard from the community that it is not good when people are not aware of what is going on with the Council and administration.
Another major priority is hiring a full-time administrator for Aamjiwnaang, she said. The community has been without a permanent head of the Band’s daily affairs since last September, a situation that needs fixing to give staff proper support. “When our staff are supported and feeling happy, it helps make services even better,” Rogers explained.
Since serving as a Band councilor in the 1980’s, Rogers has been a JP in Sarnia for 21 years. She had to leave the Council position and remove herself from committees that could have any political implications during her time working in the justice system, but she has always maintained her interest in community affairs during that time.
Since retiring two years ago, Rogers says “numerous” people have asked her to run for Chief, and with the support of her family, she decided to put her name up for the post.
Another priority for Rogers is to help provide funding for all members going to post-secondary education. She wants to restore support for students attending colleges or universities in the United States, funding she claims was withdrawn last May by the Southern First Nations Secretariat.
Her third immediate concern is taking care of Elders. Rogers hopes to establish 24/7 medical care at Aamjiwnaang for Elders who need it, so they will not need to leave the community if they need constant care.
Re-elected to a two-year term on Council along with former Chief Chris Plain are current councilors: Sherri Crowley, Errnol Gray, Shawn Plain, John Adams, and Darren L. Henry. Former Chief Phil Maness, and Dallas Sinopole were also elected to Council. Along with being elected Chief, Joanne Rogers was also elected as a councilor. She told Anishinabek News she is not certain whether she will keep her post as councilor, or whether a by-election might be needed.
Other candidates for Chief were Wilson Plain Sr., former councilor Lareina Rising, and Danalynn Williams.