Cultural centre top priority for reinstated Benoit First Nation chief

Frank Gale
Published on April 6, 2014
Jasen Benwah has been reinstated as chief of Benoit First Nation.
Submitted photo

Now that he has been returned as chief of Benoit First Nation, Jasen Benwah’s first priority is to have a cultural centre built for his band.

“I plan on being way more active this time around,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

“We already have the land and the plans for our new cultural centre that will house our band office and an activities centre.”

He said the centre will be a place for band members to do drumming and other activities for everyone from the youth right up to the elders to exercise their traditions and culture.

Benwah said a lot of their members want to be more exposed to their culture and, while they are involved in some of that now, the band doesn’t really have a good location.

As for being returned as chief by acclamation, Benwah said he was surprised because the band has more members than it did previously.

“The feedback is that most everyone is content with the leadership and not looking at change,” he said. “I’ve been chief since 2004, so I’m getting used to the role.”

All of the members of the new band council, which is based in Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula, were acclaimed on March 30. All will be serving a three-year period.

In addition to Chief Benwah, other members include: Phyllis Young, vice-chief, Lory Benoit-Jesso, secretary, Conrad Benoit, treasurer, Barbra McAlinden, women’s representative, George Benoit, director, and Tanya Chaisson, youth representative.

Conrad Benoit is returning to the treasurer’s position after a few years’ absence, while McAlinden and Benoit-Jesso are serving for their first terms on the executive.

Elders on the council are permanent, and non-elected positions and are currently filled by Elder Jerome Benoit and Elder Edna M. Benoit.

Benwah said the elders help direct the band council, and added that more elders are welcome.

He said the band will hold a celebration for Aboriginal Day in June and will also have a presence at the powwow in Flat Bay in July.