HEART LAKE RESERVE - "Because of how much I care about and love this reserve and its people, I found the decision to resign as your chief after 22 years to be the hardest decision I have ever had to make," Eugene Monias told his band members at a meeting called to perform his last duties as chief, March 27.
"I cannot stand to be a party to or to be involved with a local government that is always fighting amongst itself or cannot work or talk with each other honestly. With the deepest respect for the interests and good of the band, I made this decision to resign," he said.
"I strong believe we should all help each other for the good of the band and a better community for all of us to live in. But each and every one of us has to pull our own share and load, in being responsible for our own bank loans, advances, homes, work, community and local government.
"In making day-to-day and important decisions for the band, our own chief and council cannot with honesty, maturity and professionalism, talk, co-operate and do things together.
"If the band administration and program personnel cannot respect the terms of their jobs, program guidelines, and directives from the chief and council, or be accountable for the proper administration and management of band funds and resources, I cannot allow myself to be a party to this," Monias said.
Outstanding personal loans and wage advances of $19,388.01 is owing to the Heart Lake band by its members. Monias says he does not agree with such practices, and says serious measures will be taken by the Department of Indian Affairs if this matter is not cleared up and continues to get out of control.
Monias says the decision to resign was the hardest decision to make, not because he was afraid to show his deepest thoughts and feelings, but because there is so much at stake, and he prays to God that the band members will see this.
Monias has never been known to take his position as chief lightly or foolishly. when first elected as chief, there was nothing on the reserve. The band members credit the determination of Monias with the new homes, the work projects and up-grading programs, the new school, the building of the marina, park and store as well as a new fire truck, (to mention a few improvements) on the reserve.
Newly elected chief Peter Francis says he intends to walk in the footsteps of Monias, regarding him as a great leader.
"It was a great pleasure working with Monias, and I will rely on him for help and direction in my new role," Francis said. There will be changes with a new chief and council, but Francis says he would like the people to work together.
"The jobs available on the reserve will be given to band members," he said. Receiving a great applause from the band members, "the band members must work for the band," he added.
One of the priorities in his new position, Francis says is pressuring for road improvements from Lac La Biche (40 miles south). "The road is terrible, and the wear and tear on a vehicle using that road is very expensive." Residents of Heart Lake don't have any other choice for travel, as this is the only road into Heart Lake.
Simon Sparklingeyes, band manager, says, "It was a pleasure to work with Monias, not only as a boss, but as a colleague (when he was chief at Goodfish Lake).
His departure as chief saddens the heart of the community. Eugene is a strong leader," he said.
The principal of the school since band took over its operation, three years ago, says the school was made possible through the efforts of hard work of Monias. "We couldn't of done it without your help," he told Monias.
"You have always been available, and your support as a leader is and will always be appreciated. We will continue to count on your support," he said in extending his good wishes from the school
Jim Dennis, representative for the district manager of Indian Affairs for the St. Paul region, said in his 18 years with the department, he has known Eugene Monia and has found him to be an excellent chief, and his accomplishments as chief are well known to the district.
Well wishers were in abundance, but none could match the pleasure shown by Monias' wife, Rose, when she thanked the band members for returning her husband. "With our 12 children, I need my husband's help," she said.