FSIN Second Vice-Chief Candidate Profile – Bob Merasty on First Nation Service and the Leadership Challenge
FSIN Second Vice-Chief Candidate Profile
–Bob Merasty, First Nation Service & the Leadership Challenge
Flying Dust First Nation – Bob Merasty, former Chief of Flying Dust First Nation is well known for his commitment to serve First Nations people and has his sights on the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) office of the Second Vice-Chief. The vice-chief positon was recently vacated by Bobby Cameron who now is vying for seat of the FSIN Chief, along with Helen Ben and Leo Omani.
Bob, an avid promoter of First Nations economic development and employment initiatives is known for his ability to create essential linkages between the corporate world and First Nations. Bob has worked in senior positions for Saskatchewan Crown Corporations and was the Executive Director of FSIN Corporate Circle. In addition to his past tenure as Chief, Bob is a business owner, educated in law, runs a consultant company that has worked with many First Nations over the years, in business development, governance and community capacity.
In 2011, as Chief of Flying Dust Bob took a shot in the dark and reached out to the Habitat for Humanity Canada to see if there was a possibility of working together on a community project, the building of an Elder’s lodge. Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, social-based organization that leverages donations to help to get low income people into healthy affordable housing. “Many First Nations have limited resources to address social needs and on Flying Dust we needed to build a lodge for our Elders so that they can continue to live in the community semi-independently” Bob recalls.
The goals of Habitat fitted well with the goals of the First Nation, however there were policy issues that needed to be aligned from the organization’s part in order to move ahead. Together, Bob and Habitat for Humanity’s Lloydminster Chapter were able to finesse policies that ultimately brought the Elder’s lodge into reality. This innovative partnership approach has now resulted in an open door for other First Nations and Habitat for Humanity partnerships across Canada.
It is this type of thinking and relationship building that have been proven to be Bob’s strengths. “We recognize as leaders that we don’t have enough resources to meet the needs of our people so we have to be creative and look for partnerships that will help our communities- partnerships in health care, education, investment capital and business and many other areas.”
Bob knows the challenges ahead and took the time to consider his decision. It is imperative that you run for the right reasons and that you know the full reality of your commitment. “One of the first questions I think most people who are seeking an elected office has to asked themselves is ‘why do it?’ After being Chief, one knows of the commitment involved. However it comes down to a core value that isn’t glamourous but it is rewarding in our traditional First Nation culture – to be able to serve your people is an honour.”
Bob believes that service to First Nation communities, is about being an advocate and at the FSIN level it’s also about acting on the direction that is provided by the First Nation leadership. The FSIN represents 75 First Nations and collectively Saskatchewan First Nation population that is close to 200k.
“I have been speaking about the traditional teaching of Wicihitowin, respecting and helping others and this is how First Nation leadership should behave. I know the weight each and every person carried by those who decide to serve their people, be it as Elders, ceremonial keepers, community volunteers, or elected leaders take on. Our survival once depended on our ability to live up to the expectation of those types of teachings. Today, our ability to grow strong as a nation comes back to these teachings.”
Respecting and helping each other has been a message Bob has been using consistently in the FSIN campaign and he says that in his travels he hears the need to have leadership that is there not only to service but also to give a voice for First Nation issues.
Issues that are on the forefront for Bob are the protection and preservation of the First Nation way of life, cultural, language and youth empowerment. Nationally, the unfinished business regarding our Treaties and the call for inquiry and action plan for our missing and murder Indigenous women.
Bob considers it important to exercise our First Nations autonomy and continue to build capacity by enforcing our own legislation and recent comments by our new Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau to deal with issues “nation to nation” are very positive.
Bob’s initial priorities will be on funding parity for First Nation education and the creation of a strong economic foundation. Education and economic development are tools that are needed to better equip ourselves on the path to achieving self-determination goals of First Nations says Bob.
“We need to work with all levels of government to find solutions to alleviating these challenges. First Nations need to design an economic framework that is inclusive of community members. Secondly, we need to address the funding parody of our education system. This should be a no –brainer, our children and our youth need a first class education system and it’s in the best interests of Canadian society to ensure that no child gets left behind.”
Mindful of his past experiences, his community and his spiritual connection to his culture helps keep this leader strong. Bob says that walking a good path and staying grounded are the expectations of leadership. According to Bob, the concept of service is a core value of Wicihitowin, which is prevalent in First Nation’s societies.
Bob concluding words, spoke of the need to build a strong team, an FSIN executive that are willing to work together and support each other. “The FSIN forum is a significant player and in the past few years we have strayed away from the cohesiveness and united front that was imperative to achieving First Nation goals. The benefits of teamwork needs to be modelled, and who best to lead this but the FSIN executive.”
The FSIN Election will be held on October 29 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the FSIN Chief’s Legislative Assembly. There will be over 800 First Nation delegates who will come together to vote on the new FSIN Chief and the second Vice Chief position, which are Rod Atcheynum and Guy Lonechild.