Who victimized dogs?

Owner claims dogs sacrificed to politics

By Brian Back                                              POSTED: FEBRUARY 8, 2011

Late in November the Nugget ran a story on the Temagami First Nation headlined “Politics at play when dogs shot — owner.” Three of Sherwood Becker’s dogs were shot over his opposition, he claimed, to the tribe’s effort to repatriate membership control from the feds.

Repatration was necessary for treaty settlement and self-government. It was a long sought-after tribal dream.

As an online commenter to the story wrote, “WOW! that sounds like the Wild Wild West....right out of the movies....”

The story left many members of the TFN upset at the portrayal of their community.

As Chief Roxane Ayotte and dog control officer Jamie Saville both told me, the dogs had nothing to do with the November vote but had been an issue since summer.

At a July 17 community meeting, complaints to Chief and Council hit a peak over wayward dogs without innoculations.  Behind the ire was a concern over the health and safety of residents and their dogs. People wanted strict bylaw enforcement. Chief and Council heard and acted.

Bylaw number one, the one and only bylaw the band has ever had, relied on the honour system. (Ironically, the creation of the bylaw in the early 1970s marked the birth of self-government at the TFN when tribal members stood up, for the first time, against its uneven enforcement and demanded a say.)

The part-time dog officer, who worked full-time at the day care, only donned his dog catcher's hat when there was a complaint.

Becker, known locally as Woody, admitted to me that his dogs had gotten loose before and killed dogs. “That’s what dogs do.”

The Nugget story did not mention that Council bent over backwards to avoid destroying the dogs. Neither Ayotte nor Saville returned the Nugget’s calls, leaving Becker’s statements unchallenged.

The chief sent a letter on July 30 to the community giving 30 days notice of a veterinarian's inoculation visit to the island on August 30. Failure to get shots, it noted, would result in dog destruction.

The TFN annually organized a clinic for the convenience and cost-savings to residents, but this time it was moved a month earlier. Becker did not bring his dogs.

After the vet’s visit, a second letter was sent to those in noncompliance  inviting them to talk to Council on September 8. Becker did not show.

There was a community meeting on October 2, a chance for him to object publicly to the notice of enforcement or try to amend the bylaw. The Nugget gave the impression Becker’s concerns had been on the agenda, but Becker had not made any request, the chief said. Becker did not show.

On October 3, a second vaccination clinic was organized by Council for the few delinquents. Becker did not show.

On October 5, Chief and Council sent Becker a second 30-day notice with a new warning to destroy the dogs for noncompliance. On October 31, he responded by letter, thanking Council for the notice and informing it that the bylaw had nothing to do with him. Most of the letter dealt with his political issues, including his claim that community leaders were foreigners from the United States.

Becker had a long history as the nation’s anarchist-in-chief and relished the role. He was one of the leaders of the three-family revolt in 1993 that contributed to the tumultuous defeat of the treaty settlement and the fall from power of long-time chief Gary Potts.

Becker has claimed, since the early 1990s, that most of the TFN members were Ojibways who came from elsewhere. Elsewhere has changed over the years: Green Lake, Manitoulin Island, Sudbury, Timmins, United States.

The history of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai was well documented in court between 1982 and 1991, but none of this Ojibway immigration came out then, nor has it been openly documented since. He promised, and has for nearly two decades, that it will come out eventually.

As a descendant of the Whitebear family he called himself Algonquin. The Whitebears, he said, owned virtually all of nDakimenan, the traditional territory, before the Ojibways squatted. His familial trace back to the Whitebears did not follow a paternal or maternal line, but crossed to his father’s mother.

He called the McKenzies, one of the largest families in the community, an Ojibway family. Yet by doing that he stepped around the fact that his mother was a McKenzie.

Of course, he denied membership in the TFN because it was an Ojibway organization. Yet he remained active in its politics, voted in elections, and benefited from community programs.

To him the TFN and its members were the real colonialists. An enemy morphed from the Crown into friends and family.

On November 16, after the second notice expired, the dog control officer acted.

The Nugget story pointed to the “destruction of his lead sled dog and a cherished breeding female.”

“If you care about your dogs so much,” Saville said, “why can’t you have them inoculated? Who’s paying the price here?"









"WOW! that sounds like the Wild Wild West....right out of the movies...."

Online commenter on Nugget story






"If you care about your dogs so much, why can’t you have them inoculated? Who’s paying the price here?"

     Dog control officer Jamie Saville



       Voting on self-determined membership

      Striving for self-government





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