Yesno elected NAN grand chief
Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s new grand chief is well-versed in economic-development issues and well-known in provincial and aboriginal political circles.
Harvey Yesno squeaked out a victory on the third ballot Wednesday, defeating closest rival Terry Waboose by 22-21 in the secret-ballot vote. The term is for three years.
Yesno maintained a slight lead through the first two ballots over closest challengers Waboose and Mike Metatawabin, both outgoing deputy grand chiefs. Metatawabin was not on the third ballot.
Yesno is one of three new faces joining on the new NAN executive council. Alvin Fiddler of Muskrat Dam and Goyce Kakegamic of Keewaywin were elected as deputy grand chiefs. They’ll join Les Louttit of Fort Albany who was re-elected as a deputy grand chief.
The vote took place during NAN’s annual Keewaywin conference, held this year at Kashechewan First Nation on James Bay. About 300 people were in attendance, including voting delegates.
The new executive council was sworn into office immediately. The conference continues today under the direction of the new executive council.
Prior to running for the grand chief position, Yesno, 57, served as president of NAN’s development fund for business ventures.
According to his campaign bio, Yesno took a leave of absence from the fund to work for Ontario’s Ring of Fire secretariat as that agency’s director of aboriginal community and stakeholder relations.
Married with five children, Yesno was born at the remote Eabametoong First Nation 350 kilometres north of Thunder Bay “into a family of business and retail.” He served as Eabametoong’s chief for five terms.
“The guiding objectives of (Yesno’s) career are the creation of a sustainable business and economic development sector in the aboriginal community and the development of regional and community institutions to achieve self-determination,” said the bio regarding his candidacy.
Yesno, who graduated in 1977 from Confederation College’s avionics program, describes himself as a problem-solver and experienced negotiator. That might come in handy as several NAN communities work to negotiate economic benefit agreements with mining companies working on aboriginal traditional lands in the province’s remote North.
Yesno replaces former NAN grand chief Stan Beardy, who was elected Ontario’s Regional Chief in June. NAN represents 49 First Nations and about 45,000 Cree and Oji-Cree living on and off reserve.