By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Manitoba Keeewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper’s plan to classify sponsors for the upcoming Assembly of First Nation election event in Winnipeg by traditional clan designations has upset some chiefs in his organization.
Chiefs gathered at the AFN’s annual general assembly in Halifax this week selected MKO to host the election for national chief in Winnipeg this coming December.
The dismal state of MKO’s finances, however, has led MKO-member chiefs to question whether the organization had the financial ability to host such a large and important event. The organization has been warned the federal Aboriginal Affairs department could put it into co-management or third party management if it doesn’t get its books in order.
Yet, despite this, Harper said during the AFN assembly MKO was “financially ready” to host the event.
Harper refused requests from APTN National News for an interview.
A spokesperson for MKO said the organization would be relying on the Manitoba government, Tourism Winnipeg and third-party sponsors to help pay the bills.
In an effort to attract cash, MKO plans to award Bear, Eagle, Sturgeon and Wolf Clan designation to sponsors, according to a sponsorship package obtained by APTN National News. The sponsorship package was drawn up on the assumption the AFN election would be held on Sept. 30.
APTN National News confirmed the sponsorship clan plan remains the same for the December event.
The document shows that a sponsor who contributes $75,000 or more to the AFN election event will be classified as Bear Clan. An Eagle Clan designation will go to sponsors who contribute $50,000, a Sturgeon Clan designation will be bestowed on sponsors contributing $25,000 and the Wolf Clan goes to sponsors who put up $15,000.
Bear, Eagle and Sturgeon Clan-level sponsors will get a chance to attend a private reception with the newly elected national chief, according to the document. All clan-designated sponsors will have a seat on the planning committee for the event.
The use of traditional clan designation, however, has upset some MKO member chiefs.
“Trying to utilize our sacred clan system for the purpose of this nature is not right. As Indigenous people, a clan system is very sacred to us and to use it as an economic development strategy is not something we should do,” said an MKO-member chief who requested anonymity. “That is not right using our sacred clan system.”
Harper’s plan to sell sponsorships for a “spiritual services event” to coincide with the AFN election is also causing concern. Harper, who is a born-again Christian, has organized Gospel jamborees to coincide with MKO events and there is suspicion among some MKO chiefs that the organization’s money is used to support revival services.
“There were certain things that were not budgeted for that the grand chief insisted would get funded,” said another MKO member chief. “There were certain revivals (Evangelical Christian services) that he would associate with the businesses we were doing. He has these Gospel jamboree that are usually loosely connected to events that MKO hosts and he would us MKO funds for this.”
An official with MKO, who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the organization, said revival and “prayer services” are paid for by sponsorship dollars.
Harper is facing increasing discontent from the MKO chiefs who voted him into the job. There is a move to oust the grand chief over allegations of financial mismanagement and suspect transactions with MKO dollars.
MKO is facing major financial difficulties, according to documents obtained by APTN National News that showed the organization faced a $976, 025 accumulated deficit as of March 2013.
MKO member chiefs say they have received little information about the current state of the organization’s finances. MKO.
MKO is currently under a forensic investigation called for the executive council of chiefs. The results of the most recent phase of the forensic audit is expected to be tabled at MKO’s chiefs meeting next week in Norway House First Nation, Man.
The forensic audit report will reveal that laptops and cell phones were tampered with before they were handed over to auditors conducting the investigation, according to a copy obtained by APTN National News.
Harper is also facing allegations he tried to obstruct the forensic audit.