Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches has announced he is not running for chief in the next election in April 2022.
Meeches served in public service for a successful 26 years and was chief for 20 of them.
"I mean actually, I didn't even think I'd be here this term, but it's been weighing on my mind for some time," says Meeches. "I've made a decision to not run for the chief's office at Long Plain, and I'd most likely run for council," says Meeches. "26 years in office is a long time and if I do get elected into council, that would take me to 30 years. That's a long time for anybody to be in a position."
He explains he has several other opportunities to slow down and turn inward to Long Plain and work more in the community with their corporate portfolio.
"I think there's a lot of opportunities with Long Plain and with our urban reserves in Keeshkeemaquah and Madison in Winnipeg," continues Meeches. "Obviously, the big one is Naawi-Oodena (formerly Kapyong Barracks). In working with my colleagues over the years, we've managed to secure Naawi-Oodena. I just want to key in on the Indigenous economy and strengthen that."
He says he'll continue to work on the business opportunities that are presented to them.
Meeches outlines some highlights during his career as chief.
"Well, obviously, it would be Naawi-Oodena," adds Meeches. "To me, it's quite unique. I think it's historic. This is our 150th anniversary with our Treaty 1, and I think Long Plain has done a lot of good work in the economy. We've had great administrations over the years -- great chiefs and councils over the years -- and all of our staff and people that helped along the way to strengthen our economy. And there's been a lot of good work in that. We're about to announce a major land claim settlement agreement. It was a little bit delayed because of the election, so that's coming right up."
He notes he can't take credit for all that's been accomplished, but the development of those reserves was quite important to secure Long Plain.
Meeches says he first made the announcement on October 14, giving the community six months to allow those who might seek to run for the office to consider and work toward that option.
"Obviously, a lot of people are disappointed at my decision," notes Meeches. "They would like me to keep going. I'm fairly confident the next generation of leadership would continue the good work that's been achieved by our successive councils over the years, and to make space for the younger generation is important. For me, basically, I want to step back and play more of a supporting role with Long Plain Treaty One Nation, and other companies that I'll be involved with."
Meeches explains there's been a lot of challenges over the years, noting they're poised for a lot of good things that are coming for their economic development.
"I think the relationships we built up with the civic governments, such as Portage and Winnipeg, gave us a strong partnership," adds Meeches. "We need to continue. There's still a lot of challenges we face together. And I'm hoping we can alleviate some of those problems we have, and create a better environment. We need to do it for reconciliation. I'm always an eternal optimist and I think good things will come. And I know there's a lot of concern out there right now with the pandemic and everything else. But really, I think we need to take stock of all that, just assess everything, and do our best."