Hundreds from Manitoba Cree nation sign petition to remove chief - APTN NewsAPTN News

Hundreds from Manitoba Cree nation sign petition to remove chief

protest-camp-1000-x-560Brittany Hobson
APTN National News
Hundreds of members from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation in Manitoba have signed a petition demanding that the chief resign from his position stating he is not working for the community. 

At the moment, a small group of eight, headed by Rick Dumas and Arvel Spence, are heading into their second month of blockading the council office.

They told APTN News that a lack of transparency and accountability along with poor living conditions and a series of resignations have prompted them to take action.

“I’ve given up trying,” said community member Elias Spence by phone. “I don’t know who to talk to. The people don’t know where to go, there are no answers. We don’t know what to do now.”


(O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation member Elias Spence. The community is also known as South Indian Lake)

A protest camp was set up outside the band office on Sept. 18 after many conversations with the chief left some members concerns unresolved.

Dumas also launched a petition calling for the chief to step down. Approximately 1,300 live in the community and more than 400 members have signed on to the petition.

According to members, the current chief, Chris Baker, is never in the community.

They said Baker is only around two or three days out of the week and spends the rest of his time in Thompson, which is about 300 km away.

Members said this has left many in the community, 1,070 km north of Winnipeg, unsure of who to turn to.

Spence said he’s been trying to get help with the sewage tank on his property from chief and council for years without any luck.

He said years of use have left the tank with damage causing the tank to spill over every summer.

“My problem with the sewage and water I haven’t gotten any I’ve been requesting repairs and nothing has come my way,” said Spence.


(Some people in the community want issues like this damaged sewage tank dealt with.)

In August one of the councilors resigned due to a lack of support from Baker.

Rose Linklater was a councilor from Dec. 2015 to Aug. 2017.

She said none of the community’s problems were ever addressed because Baker wasn’t in the community.

“I mentioned to him a lot of times he was never there. I kept having to repeat myself over and over again,” said Linklater

Baker has held the position since 2014.

APTN spoke with Baker who confirmed his family lives in Thompson but said that he calls O-Pipon-Na-Piwin home.

He said he spends most of his time traveling across the province lobbying for support in his community.

“The chief is like a sasquatch. You never see him,” said Baker. “I have to travel to look for program and funding. If you stay at home you will catch nothing.”

Dumas said members are concerned about funding in the community.

He said many homes need repairs.

“We don’t know where any of the funding is going. We have no houses. We’re very short of housing. We were told every house would be hooked up to a main waterline,” said Dumas.

Arvel Spence said she is worried about the youth in the community.

“They don’t want to prioritize our children. Our children are the future,” said Spence.

“The youth have nothing in place for them. The youth centre they were promised are offices now.”

According to Baker, 46 homes have been renovated under Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada First Nation On-Reserve Housing Program.

He added the community is in the process of building a new school. They are trying to determine an appropriate location for the new school.

Dumas said he reached out to INAC for assistance with the concerns in the community but hasn’t heard back.

APTN contacted INAC and received this response:

“The O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation holds its elections under its own community election rules and not under the Indian Act election system; as such, the Department does not play a role in determining how the community’s leadership is selected or how governance disputes are resolved.”

The next election is set to take place August 2018 but chief and council have agreed to hold an early election in May.

For members of the protest camp, this isn’t soon enough.

They are still calling on Baker to step down immediately.

Baker said he will stay on as long as he’s been elected for.

“They should abide and honour the election code and the whole process of it,” he said.

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18 Responses to “Hundreds from Manitoba Cree nation sign petition to remove chief”

    Su November 9, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    If you can it’s time to protest at his house in Thompson….once you start to bother his real neighbors you may get some satisfaction…..good luck keep fighting the good fight!

    Katleen November 9, 2017 at 12:47 am #

    I don’t know what your community election code is,but you people elected him in, you can him out. The community is the boss of the chief and council. The Chief by rights, is only a spokes person for the people, your recommendations for your community is given to the council and they then tell the Chief what your wishes are and he should act on them. Th

    Andrina November 9, 2017 at 12:01 am #


    chris semple November 8, 2017 at 11:22 pm #

    EMBARESSING,,,FOR the rest of the CREES,!!!!!!

    Jasmine November 8, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

    So quick to answer the media and he doesn’t even do that for the community. How are we supposed to honour an election code that he came up with too, when he can’t even honour community members. I’m pretty sure everyone knows where South Indian Lake is now, hes been travelling for years. “Lobbying for our community” hasn’t he heard of the internet??? with today’s society, social media is a very great tool when it comes to connecting with others. I don’t see a need for that much travelling when housing in our community is third world country conditions. Our community is starting to wake up, and we want change! It’s not only a group of eight members. The petition tells us otherwise! over four hundred signatures. #NeverBackDown #Don’tgiveup

    June November 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    He should abide and honor the people.

    Storm November 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    The chief is like a sasquatch. You never see him,” said Baker. “I have to travel to look for program and funding. If you stay at home you will catch nothing.” Is this a mistake did baker really say that about himself.

    Storm November 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    Elias Spence and his family wanted Chief baker to step down long time ago because, his sister in law is a councillor. She started this whole process. He lives in a Cmhchousing and if he needed to know why his sewage wasn’t getting fixed he should’ve asked Nora Spence to help write letters. Rose quit because she was losing her friends and couldn’t handle she want the boss, nobody sided with her. This community was short of housing way long before Chief baker became chief. He’s the one who turned it into a reserve and brought 30 housing units and has repaired many more. If he didn’t there would be nothing here in this community. The youth centre was turned into office space because so many jobs were created. You should also ask how many of the protester are bootleggers and drug dealers. Or do drugs and cause problems in the community or their children contribute to gang lifestyle. They should fix themselves first. Let Chief and council do their job Chief baker lives here but why does he have to be here all the time. His wife works and educated herself to buy a house and live where she wants. The last chief lived in Thompson too, but he’s related to protesters. There should not be an election because everyone voted you lost ” go home and fix your families and quit bootlegging!

    Barbara Spence Jr. November 8, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

    hi I’m am from this band opcn. I had to move from my home town due to lack of housing and poor housing condition. we had lived with a family member for years and we had no running water or sewage system. my kids where all ways getting sick and I had Chris baker to help and he said your on the list. I have 6 children and my fiancee and we still wait for a house until then we had to move. in the house we where in I had another child his name was leelond he has passed away at 20 days old leaving in that house till this day I blame the condiconditions we had lived in. Thank you for support our community on there battle and I hope Chris Baker steps down.

    Bianca November 8, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    I feel bad for South Indian people there are living in such poor conditions they deserve a better chief that will stay with his community and stand up for his people help them not just abandon them I have many friends there and South Indian needs a lot of help like a water treatment plant upgrades on there northern it looks so outdated

    Aaron laponsee November 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    Finally ppl are heard plz keep it going ppl of sil comment keep it going

      Me November 10, 2017 at 6:11 am #

      FYI nothing’s still going no one’s been at the so called PEACEFUL PROTESTERS for awhile now they just put a pad lock on there little hut and went on with there lives hahaha

    Amccaffrey November 8, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    We the people of Opcn need leadership!
    Youth resources and mental health services! Chief and Council should be investigated and audited for mis use of band funds! Suicide and death rates should be inquired. Thanks for the media attention we appreciate the support!

    Moose November 8, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    If they think removing the chief is going to solve the issues in that community, they are sadly mistaken. It’s going to take more then an overhaul of 5 band members (chief and council) to fix what’s happening up there.
    Parents need to start being more responsible for their children..I left the community groups because all it is was people telling one another to “shut the fuck up” calling each other down, complaining about all the damage the youth are doing to themselves and the community but no one can name the youth?? Cmon .:the article itself says that only 1300 live there, and they can’t name the kids that are doing things like turning my mother in laws water off when it was -50..they can’t name the kids who tried to start a fire in her basement? ..they can’t name the kids who threw rocks through her window? They can’t name the kids who strung those puppies by the the basketball hoops??

    Cmon . That’s not a chief and council issue. That’s a lack of discipline and responsibility from the parents

    My brother in law was murdered by someone who bares the same name as us, we share nephews wirh a family that murdered their dad. That is not a chief and council issue.

    I have multiple nieces who have been sexually assaulted by other community members who they choose to suffer in silence because the victim blaming in that community is so overwhelming. One of my nieces was told she wasn’t allowed to cry because the rape happened when she was visiting for a funeral and it would deviate the attention away from the mourning family. That is not a chief and council issue.

    We have people that want to be referred to as “elders” in the community who are lifelong bootleggers and drug dealers. Who have domestic violence charges against them..where are the 7 teachings in that kind of activity? That is not a chief and council issue.

    When that community can learn to stop fighting one another and killing one another, then chief and council will make headway..but not a moment before that.

      Joe November 14, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

      Thank you for sharing what is happening. It’s very sad.

    Celina Dumas November 8, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Baker should respect the requests of the people in the community. The community is hurting in so many ways. I do not live in South Indian Lake but it breaks my heart to see the once thriving community be a failing reserve. Leadership has failedcthe people and it is clearly seen. Funding is limited to support the community members. Baker should stop travelling and live in the community so he can see the hardships that are in the community. I once was proud to say where I came from but now I hide that fact. I hide it because everyone I meet thinks Baker is negative and the community is looked upon like that. A negative leader has made the community a negative place! He doesn’t deserve the title of Chief!

      Keith November 10, 2017 at 6:30 am #


      sherma Myers November 16, 2017 at 7:23 pm #