Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ousted Roseau chief may be calling it quits

Scrappy leader turfed by custom council this month

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One of Manitoba's most outspoken First Nations activists may not run for chief of Roseau River -- a position he was ousted from earlier this month.

Terry Nelson's hesitancy comes a day after he defiantly declared his intention to run for his old job at Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation.

A week ago, Roseau River's custom council ousted Nelson as chief seven months into his latest term, marking the third time since 2007 the council has removed Nelson.

He said he'd take his fight to the community at a meeting Tuesday, but afterwards, Nelson softened his stand.

"If there is a credible candidate to support... I may not run again," Nelson said Tuesday. "The easiest thing for me would be to step aside but the community requires political stability in order to attract investment," he said.

He said he expects the custom council to call a byelection for chief. There appeared to be no spokesman for the council available for comment Tuesday and no indication when a byelection might be called.

Nelson said he believes his latest ouster was triggered by a dispute over how to handle $1 million a year in interest that is tied up in a trust fund for housing.

Nelson also said three of the four Roseau River councillors elected with him in March are considering a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the non-confidence vote that removed him as chief.

The custom council, which represents the heads of the families on the troubled First Nation, has been at odds with Nelson over control of the community for years.

Nelson spearheaded negotiations on an $80-million compensation package Ottawa paid out last summer as part of a 1903 land dispute, telling supporters he might not run as chief again once it was done.

Nelson earned his reputation as a militant aboriginal leader by threatening blockades, a contentious tactic that landed Roseau River a choice parcel of property at the junction of Highway 6 and the Perimeter Highway, now the location of a gas bar and a video-lottery lounge.

At the same time, community residents frequently phone media outlets to complain anonymously that Nelson's combative style of leadership doesn't serve them well when it comes to social services, education and public utilities.

Day-to-day decisions are made by a third-party manager that has run the indebted band's financial affairs since 2009.

Roseau River is 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2011 A8

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