Samson Cree Nation councillor sworn in after winning judicial review


After the July 28 votes were counted, Shay Yellowbird had enough to start his first term as the youngest councillor in the Samson Cree Nation election.

But days after the election, the 32 year old says he was told by Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback that someone filed an appeal against his election win.

Samson electoral law says that employees of the Nation are not allowed to work during the election campaign.

Yellowbird says that on July 27, he prepared cheques for band members who were on income assistance.

This act cost him his position on the council before he was sworn in.

Samson Cree Nation
Councillor Shay Yellowbird from Samson Cree Nation.

Yellowbird believed he did nothing wrong.

“I put my heart and soul into a clean campaign”, said Yellowbird in 2020.

Yellowbird said he only had 24 hours to prepare for an appeal. He lost.

A by-election for his council seat was held.

Yellowbird decided to file a judicial review.

Luci Johnson is a court advocate and helped Yellowbird find a lawyer, and helped along through the legal process.

Yellowbird fundraised to help pay for his expenses. One donor gave him $10,000.

On March 8, 2021, Federal Justice Sebestian Grammond ruled that the original election results are to stand, and the bi-election was ruled invalid.

Yellowbird had won.

On March 22, he was sworn in as the newest council member for Samson Cree Nation.

“It’s been a very stressful experience,” said Yellowbird.

“I mentioned in my speech that nobody should have to go through this experience again.”

Samson Cree Nation
Yellowbird being sworn as a Samson Cree Nation councillor. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN.

He’s hoping to change the electoral rules to make that happen.

Johnson was at the band office on the morning of March 22, with supporters and drummers to celebrate Yellowbirds inauguration.

“Took on the Goliath. We poked the bear, and it came out in his favour!” she told APTN News.

Yellowbird now has two years left on his term.

He says his priorities are to help young people including helping to fix unemployment, education and off-reserve support.

Yellowbird says he wants to give a voice to the youth. He says he’s already been talking to them. “I’m pretty pumped to start talking with them, and start brainstorming ideas.”


Editor’s Note: The original story said Shay Yellowbird signed cheques for band members. Yellowbird said he prepared the cheques but didn’t sign them. 

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.