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Chief Ahenakew was elected by acclamation as was second vice-president Alec Kennedy. The two were the only members of the FSI Executive to seek re-election this year and their return by acclamation is seen by many as a vote of confidence in the present performance of the Federation.
Incumbent Treasurer Henry Langan declined to seek re-election and Alec Bellegarde was elected his successor. By-elections were also held to fill the positions of secretary and third vice-president on the F.S.I. executive. Cy Standing was voted secretary and Sterling Brass, third vice-president.
The by-elections were necessitated by the resignations this summer of Noel Starblanket and Cathy Merasty. Both had been elected at last year's annual conference. Mr. Starblanket resigned to enroll in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan and has remained active in the Federation.
Usually only three of the six executive positions with the F.S.I. come up for election each year, since the framers of the constitution wanted a degree of continuity in the leadership of the organization.
Having five of the six positions up for grabs this year opened up the possibility of major changes in F.S.I. leadership and many saw this year's annual conference as the most crucial in F.S.I. history.
Officials with Indian Affairs, for example were delaying several major decisions pending results of the Federation's elections.
Chief Ahenakew's election was greeted with a standing ovation from the approximately 400 delegates and observes. The 41-year-old leader promised the conference he would continue his leadership of the organization based on the philosophy of "sitting down and hammering things out."
In an interview following his election, Chief Ahenakew said, "It seems to me that the chiefs have given me their confidence because it has always been the direction of the chiefs which I have consistently followed in this organization."
Although outspoken and a tough negotiator on behalf of the Indians of Saskatchewan, Chief Ahenakew has consistently rejected violent confrontation as a solution to Indian problems. He sees his election as a vote of confidence in the organization's handling of Indian affairs, and has promised to continue his attack on the "bureaucracy of Indian Affairs" to the point where they realize that "we do not have to depend on government permission or approval in deciding for ourselves what our future will be."
The present situation of Indians is certainly not what the signers of the treaties intended nor what the treaties allow, Chief Ahenakew said. "We are not surrendering our way of life nor our souls when we made the treaties. We were not obliged or forced to become whitemen. Out forefathers intended that we should remain independent and self-governing as Indians in Canadian society, while living within the boundaries of the treaties and the general laws of the country."
Although he now resides in Prince Albert, Chief Ahenakew grew up on us father's farm on the Sandy Lake serve in north-central Saskatchewan. Educated at Sandy Lake, he later joined the Canadian Army and served in the Korean War, with NATO forces in Germany and with United Nations peace-keeping forces in Suez Canal.
It was his experience in Korea and Egypt that led him into Indian politics on his return from 16 years in the army. Chief Ahenakew said, I could see that what was happening to our people was the same kind of exploitation and degradation I had seen in Korea and Egypt."
After leaving the army, Chief Ahenakew joined the Federation as Communication Worker. Eight months later, he opposed Walter Dieter for the chief's position, winning handily. In his three succeeding elections, Chief Ahenakew has been elected twice by acclamation and won an easy victory in the 1972 elections over Gerald Wuttunee of Red Pheasant.
For Alec Kennedy, who is 35, his election marks a third term as second vice-president of the Federation where over the years he has been primarily responsible for economic development and agriculture on Saskatchewan reserves. A good looking and personally popular man, Mr. Kennedy has won his post twice by acclamation.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Kennedy said he felt "humble by the confidence you place in me." He promised to continue working to ensure that "Indians have a share in the resources of Canada."
A member of the Little Pine Band. Mr. Kennedy had operated a farm there until his election to the F.S.I. executive.
Of his and Chief Ahenakew's election by acclamation, Mr. Kennedy said, "It's a good sign that people are not opposed to us as leaders and the things we're doing."
George Manuel, president of the National Indian Brotherhood, felt the same way. He told delegates the next day the election results showed great strength and unity among Saskatchewan Indians and confidence in their fine leadership.
Delegates casting votes.
The elections attracted a great deal of interest and during the nominating procedures delegates an F.S.I. Community Development Worker from the Qu'Appelle area, and Lennox Wuttunee, a Counsellor-Technician from the Red Pheasant Reserve.
Mr. Brass, 36, is also chief of Key Band near Norquay, Saskatchewan and was formerly an employee with the Department of Indian Affairs. He told delegates that he likes to "meet things head-on" and is anxious to work and "help my people."
Cy Standing regained his position on the F.S.I. election as secretary when he beat out Allen Joe Felix, a band administrator for the Sturgeon Lake Reserve, on the second round
It was a "good, clean election" said many and appears to have generated little bitterness or dissention. Candidates for the various positions all campaigned on their own merits with none attacking either the Federation or fellow candidates. After the election results were known the losers publicly shook hands with and promised their support for the winners.
The only position filled on the first round of balloting was that of third vice-president where Sterling Brass won a landslide victory over his two opponents, Roland Crowe, of balloting. Ken Sparvier, district representative for the Yorkton area chiefs, was defeated on the first round of balloting.
Mr. Standing, 37, had been secretary previously until he was defeated in the 1973 elections by Cathy Merasty. Miss Merasty resigned that position this summer.
Mr. Standing is also chief of the Wahpeton Reserve, a Sioux community, and came to the F.S.I. after serving 10 years with the Canadian Air Force as an electronics engineer. He told delegates that the Indian would have to teach the white man to live with nature and not destroy it with his pollution.
A second round of balloting elected Alec Bellegarde to the treasurer's position. He defeated Peter Dubois, and Tony Cote for the position.
Mr. Dubois lost his F.S.I. executive position at last year's annual meeting and Mr. Cote was formerly chief of the Cote Band.
Mr. Bellegarde 34, is the chief of the Little Black Bear Reserve in the File Hills area, and the district representative for the Touchwood, File Hills and Qu'Appelle district chiefs.
Because of the by-election; the positions of secretary and third vice-president will come up for re-election at next year's annual conference. The position as chief, second vice-president and treasurer will run the full two-year terms.