By Drew Hayden Taylor
Originally published in August 2010
It was election time in wonderful downtown Curve Lake again, and the dust has finally settled. We have another two more years of calm once more. This is democracy as laid out and instructed through the section on Indian Band Election Regulations, pages 119-128 of the Annotated Indian Act. And yes, it’s as exciting a read as it sounds.
Band elections are a tricky thing. They can be both good and bad. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to more than 140 Native communities across the continent, and I have heard the horror stories about how these local elections can tear communities apart, and instill generations of ill will and malice. Like being in a slightly safer Iraq, with less Kevlar protection. Ours, however, was actually quite calm with a negligible body count or reported tasering.
The slight difference with this year’s election, however, was that for a brief period I toyed with the idea of throwing my hat or headdress (the more proper cultural metaphor) into the ring. Since I’ve moved home I have been watching the local issues on my reserve with more of an interested eye. Maybe I could do something for Curve Lake and contribute something back to the community. After all, this is where I learned as a child to be cynical and snarky, opinionated and occasionally mouthy. And over the years, those attributes have done quite well for me as a writer and person.
And, if I remember correctly, a few years back, actor Adam Beach ran for chief of his Manitoba community, planning to hold band council meetings in Hollywood and issue band council resolutions from his trailer. I could see me doing that.
So should I have run for counselor first? Get some experience. Or maybe move directly to chief? Difficult choice. I’ve seen both the Godfather and American President movies, so I think I could manage running a reserve. I might have to take a few lessons from both management styles, of course.
Still, the idea stayed with me. I began to weigh possibilities. For instance, being chief involves lots of traveling. I travel a lot. Though I don’t know how many Chiefs Of Ontario or Assembly of First Nations conferences take place in the places I have frequented, like Sicily, China or Australia. I believe Ottawa, Sudbury and Regina would be more likely. Hmmm....
Same with being a councillor. I think you have to be on committees and stuff like that. I do believe it’s called participatory government. Unfortunately, I don’t do committees very well. I heard it involves listening to other people presenting their opinions, which can be difficult when you know they are essentially wrong and you are, or course, right.
I’ve been on a few boards of directors over the years and it pretty much comes down to the same. About two hours into the meeting, you realize that all things considered, you’d rather be at a movie. So I pretty much talked myself out of it.
Besides, we all know where all this would have ended up – like a political snowball. If I run for band councillor, then eventually, I would have to run for chief and be surely elected. Eventually, that would lead to being an MPP or even MP for the area. And, of course, it’s just a short hop from there to becoming premier of the province. Then, of course, it’s leader of the federal opposition, ending up with, in a few short years, Prime Minister of Canada. See, I know how the system works.
From there, the head guy at the United Nations, or even President of the World Bank or International Monetary Fund wouldn’t be far away. And then, what’s bigger then that... Mr. Universe I suppose! It would be inevitable.
So you see the dilemma. I could serve my community and then get dragged away to serve a so called higher cause somewhere else, thus defeating the point of moving home. It would be silk suits and ulcers. Fast cars and faster women. Filet Mignon and Chablis. Is this any kind of life for a simple Rez boy? All because I heard there was an opening on the housing committee. It’s simply not worth it. I should probably leave all those fast women and Chablis to the chiefs. They’re better at that stuff than I am.
And I should mention, Adam Beach lost his election. If he couldn’t win, there is nothing sure in this world. So, in the next election, as Lyndon Johnson once said, if nominated, I won’t run. If elected, I won’t serve. If put on a committee, I’ll go to a movie.
That’s how I see my democracy.