The longtime chief of Long Plain First Nation in southwestern Manitoba announced earlier this month that he would no longer be running, but he still wants to be a leader in the community, s’ striving to create better opportunities for his people.
Dennis Meeches announced earlier this month that after nearly two decades as community leader southwest of Portage la Prairie, he will not be running again.
âTwenty years in the public service is a long time,â he told CBC Manitoba. Radio Midi Thursday.
“I know there is still a lot of work to be done, obviously, but it’s time to make room for another generation of leaders.”
Being a Chief means not only overseeing the First Nation, but also working with a number of advocacy groups including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations and the Southern Chiefs Organization.
âYou are being pulled in all directions,â he said.
LISTEN | Dennis Meeches looks back on two decades of leadership:
Radio Midi Manitoba10:24Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches talks about not running for election
Meeches wants to focus more on improving the lives of First Nation members, living by a good friend’s mantra that you don’t have to be a chief to be a leader in your community.
âI would really like to look out to the community and I intend to run for a seat on the board. If things go well for me, this would probably be my last full term,â he said.
Meeches says there are many highlights from his 20 years in office.
The most significant include the development of urban reserves in Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg, and the redevelopment of the former Kapyong Barracks site in Naawi-Oodena, which means âheart and community centerâ.
The land along Kenaston Boulevard, bordering the neighborhoods of Tuxedo, River Heights and Lindenwoods, was abandoned in 2004 when the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, transferred to Canadian Forces Base Shilo, near Brandon.
The Canadian Forces then declared the site surplus and the Federal Treasury Board attempted to sell it to a Crown corporation.
This decision was challenged in court by the Treaty 1 First Nations group, who argued that outstanding treaty land rights claims meant they had a right to the site.
Although there were obstacles along the way, in 2019 the transfer of land to Treaty 1 First Nations was formalized.
âFor me, this is a very important victory for Indigenous governments and really represents a promise for tomorrow,â Meeches said.
Naawi-Oodena will include residential and commercial spaces, sports and recreational facilities, community spaces and an administrative center for the Treaty 1 Nation headed by Meeches.
Meeches says he knows there are issues he hasn’t been able to tackle well enough during his tenure.
He hopes he can give them more attention if he is elected to the board.
âThe biggest challenge we face is the drug crisis in our communitiesâ¦ for me this is an area we need to pay more attention to,â Meeches said.
His passions lean more towards economics, however.
âIf I get a seat on the board, I really want to focus on the economy. On the Indigenous economies of Long Plain and Treaty 1 Nation, âMeeches said.
He wants to “continue to create jobs and continue to create opportunities for young people, families, communities with our indigenous capital companies”.
Members of the Long Plain First Nations will elect a new chief in April 2022.