‘Giving the power back to the people in return strengthens the leadership,’ Rex Knapaysweet says
First Nations citizens need the right to vote for their regional leadership, says Rex Knapaysweet a candidate for deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Rex Knapaysweet launched the @Kee_NAN_know and #IamNAN campaigns on social media to encourage citizens of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation to get involved in regional politics (Rex Knapaysweet/Facebook)
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is the provincial treaty organization for 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. Currently, only the chiefs of those First Nations are allowed to vote for the grand chief and deputy grand chief positions.
Knapwaysweet launched the #IamNAN campaign account to encourage citizens of NAN to get involved in politics and push for their right to vote.
“We don’t have that opportunity to vote for our national chief or our regional chiefs and I find that a huge disconnect from the grassroots people right through to leadership,” Knapwaysweet said.
‘Their vote matters’
It’s not the first time a candidate in the NAN election has made the universal vote part of their campaign platform, but Knapaysweet said he wanted to “strike while the iron is hot” and First Nations people are being encouraged to vote in the federal election.
“We need to encourage the First Nations people to go out and vote [federally] because their vote matters,” he said. “But also we need to implement that in our own tribal councils and giving the power back to the people in return strengthens the leadership moving forward.”
Knapaysweet, 30, and his team of “young professionals” also launched the @Kee_NAN_know Twitter feed. When spoken in Cree, the word means “us”. Spelled out in English it speaks to the need for citizens to know more about NAN.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation election will take place Wednesday, Aug. 12. Knapaysweet said — even if he doesn’t win — he’ll continue his social media campaigning for the universal vote.