After two years of leading the Akisqnuk First Nation as chief, Alfred Joseph announced the decision to resign from his post effective immediately.
His July 17 resignation took place roughly halfway through the four-year term that band members would have expected during the October 2017 election results.
“I left out of frustration after working in there for the two years that I was in,” Joseph told the Pioneer by phone. “I thought that we had made some progress and were doing really good, but all of this went to hell, and I’ll say that I couldn’t see myself in there for the next two-years redoing the same thing we did over the last two years.”
At the age of 68, Joseph indicated there were generational conflicts taking place in the way that the roles and responsibilities of council and chief were being handled at the Akisqnuk First Nation. Joseph indicated that focusing on the Ktunaxa language revitalization efforts and raising awareness about the band’s culture interests him more than political debates at this stage of his life.
“Chief and council has changed over the years to become almost what I would call a board of directors,” he explained, noting the system had become bureaucratic and citing generational differences. “It’s not a 24-7 responsibility (for others), which is what I had taken it as. I did the best that I could do with bringing the Akisqnuk point of view and making our presence with everything that I did (end) on a positive note. The amount of issues that I’ve had to deal with in the last two-plus years have been numerous with the Truth and Reconciliation (project).”
In addition, the Columbia River Treaty discussions which were recently tabled by the Province of B.C. due to the confidential nature of cross-border negotiations and details of the initial proposal in Canada and the U.S.A framework cannot be made public according to a recent announcement from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
The tabled proposal will allow all stakeholders to revisit their options with the Province of B.C., Columbia Basin Indigenous Nations, local governments and citizens.
Joseph added there was no shortage of work to do with the Columbia River Treaty discussions, and felt that the chief and council were “swamped” with requests from members of the community.
“It was a good two years and learning how things have changed since the last time I was chief,” said Joseph. “The people have changed. The way of thinking in the younger generation has changed.”
He cited the change has not been positive for the community, and felt more emphasis by elected officials needed to be focused on acting collectively as opposed to through individualism.
“A couple of comments I’ve heard is that the older generation is not educated enough to deal with present day issues, and to me that is a very disrespectful way to be looking at things because life experiences are the best teachers and not classroom teachings,” said Joseph.
The Ktunaxa Nation Council (KNC) declined to comment on Joseph’s resignation via e-mail on July 22, stating that “The KNC does not speak on behalf of Akisqnuk leadership or administration.”
The Akisqnuk First Nation administration could not be reached for a comment before the Pioneer went to press. Councillors from Akisqnuk First Nation declined to comment as well.
With the decision to step down, Joseph remains optimistic about focusing on Ktunaxa language revitalization and plans to offer lessons to members of the Aq’am community near Cranbrook each Tuesday evening this fall. He’s also planning to spend some more time on cultural lessons, which he had to give up to fulfill the obligations in the role of chief, and hopes to offer the Akisqnuk First Nation survival skills in late-August.
“I’m always available,” Joseph explained to the Pioneer. “It seems to be the culture, whether it’s Indigenous or non-Indigenous, to have to think that because I no longer have a title, or someone in the community does not have a title, that they cannot go and speak to them. I’m still open to having friends and people stopping in, discussing things which is an attitude that I’m trying to break.”
Alfred added, “I’m trying to break down the walls that create isolation from the outside community members to be able to come and visit to treat our community members as their friends and just stop in for visits. I assume they would do it in the outside communities. If they have a friend in Edgewater, they’d go visit them in Edgewater. There’s very few and far between who feel comfortable doing that. A lot of them feel the reserve is off boundaries.”
As a child, Joseph remembers hearing family members talk about restricting visitors at the Akisqnuk First Nation but he wants to shift the culture.
“A lot of the Indigenous people say that they have to live in two worlds, but the two worlds don’t have to be— one doesn’t have to be poverty. I believe that there’s a richness in Aboriginal knowledge.”