Support from the Deh Cho
Jim Antoine backed by those in his region

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 18/98) - Nahendeh MLA and recently-elected premier Jim Antoine was welcomed and congratulated by those in his home town of Fort Simpson at a reception Wednesday evening.

In his bid for the premiership last Thursday, Antoine had received the blessing of the Liidlii Kue First Nation, where he had served three terms as chief.

"We are pleased with him being the premier. Hopefully, things will work and he has our support," said chief Rita Cli. "He's been a regional representative of ours for a long time. He speaks the (Dene) language. He's lived and walked the talk."

She said she has heard some people express concerns that Antoine will now have less time to devote to matters within the Nahendeh riding. That shouldn't be a worry, said Cli.

"We know that he's going to be limited to us, but there's always the fax and the phone...the bottom line is the communication. If you phone him, he's usually pretty good at returning your calls, or his senior staff would, " she said. "We know with the right work and support staff, things will work.

Nick Sibbeston, a former leader of the NWT government, was quite excited for Antoine.

"Well, I think it's just incredible," he said. "It's a real tribute, I guess, to Jim's abilities -- his ability to get along with people and also be seen as very fair and straight sort of thing... I think it's a real honour for people in this area to be represented by the premier."

Although Antoine's opposition for the premiership, Stephen Kakfwi, has more experience as an MLA, Sibbeston said he felt that the other MLAs were looking for someone who was distanced from all the controversial issues that have arisen in the Legislature recently.

"I think Jim appeals in the sense that he's seen as certainly clean and non-controversial," said Sibbeston.

Being premier will undoubtedly make Antoine much busier and will leave him with less time for his constituents, Sibbeston acknowledged, but he noted that there is an upside as well.

"That balances out with the fact that you have someone prestigious representing you and I'm sure that Jim would still be available through his aides," he said. "And I know Jim will come around occasionally."

In Trout Lake, chief Thomas Kotchea said he wasn't really surprised that Antoine was chosen for the job.

"Everybody's glad... I was glad that he got premier too," Kotchea said.

In his nomination speech before his fellow MLAs last Thursday, Antoine had the following to say in regards to his home riding:

"I have talked to a lot of people from the Deh Cho region and they have encouraged me to put my name forward to run as premier of the NWT," he said. " life has been an incredible journey and a learning experience. Earlier on, I learned important lessons from my parents, my relatives and elders at our traditional camps along the Deh Cho at a place called Rabbitskin River. Their lessons of respect, trust, tolerance, patience and a willingness to work co-operatively to achieve common goals will undoubtedly help me as premier..."

Some leaders, in the Deh Cho, such as Wrigley chief Mary Alice Christopher, declined to comment on Antoine's promotion.

In Nahanni Butte, chief Peter Marcellais said he hadn't really given the matter much thought.

Yvonne Norwegian, chief of the Jean Marie River band, preferred not to speak to the matter as she is related to Antoine.

Fort Liard chief Harry Deneron didn't return the Drum's calls.