The race is on. Nominations have opened for the leadership of the AFN, and today incumbent Phil Fontaine announced, as expected, that he will not run again. So who will take the top position? Let's meet the candidates.
The straight.com says Sean Atleo, currently the Regional Chief of BC is most likely to win, and that's probably right. An excellent speaker and a hard worker, Alteo is probably best known in Indian Country for quelling the embarrasing public squabbling that once plagued BC's two First Nations political organizations the First Nations summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. What is little known about Sean Atleo is that he is only 5'2" making him the shortest candidate.
From the most likely to the least likely - Terrance Nelson, chief of Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba. Terry Nelson is sort of like older lazy version of Shawn Brant . (A comparison in the non-native world would be an old hippie.) Terry thinks he's a member of AIM and is known for pitching radical civil disobedience schemes that he rarely follows through on. When it comes to controlling natural resources he is asovereignist who believes Indians should harvest and export to other countries but when it comes to getting re-elected he doesn't mind upholding the Indian Act. Terry is bat-shit crazy and will be the most exciting candidate to watch if he lets loose. Let's hope he does.
Then we have two middle candidates, and no one is sure how they will fare. An upset to the crowning of Atleo is possible.
Perry Bellegarde is a former chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSIN)elected 1998 at the tender age of 35, until 2003 when a scandal, that he was not directly involved in, broke over the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority. He's been away from politics for some time. Perry thinks he's good-looking, is very serious and is the only Indian I ever met whose not funny.
Grand Chief John Beaucage is from Ontario, leads the led the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation, and has some of the most progressive ideas, none of which are going to help him win votes.(really in Indian politics, there usually isn't much variation on policies - eliminated poverty/ec dev and education, treaty rights, self-government, health care, the environment, with cultural rights usually present but not as politicized)For example, his first press release as a candidate announced that he'd support universal suffrage (one Indian, one vote) for National Chief. Currently only chiefs get to vote, and most of them would like to keep it that way. But if press releases win votes, Beaucage may have an edge. In a single month he's issued press releases on: education, tobacco, border-crossing kelowna citizenship and more.
It's not certain if the candidates will appear in an all-candidates debate on APTN this year. In past years candidates have failed to commit to a televised debate. However 3 of the 4 candidates have agreed to hold a all-candidates forum in Ottawa at the Odawa Friendship centre in two weeks.
Elections for national chief are scheduled for July 22 in Calgary.