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Eagle Lake’s Napish installed as Treaty 3 Police Service chief

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Treaty Three Chief of Police Louie Napish sits amongst his fellow officers during the ceremony honouring him last week, a ceremony not just for him, but all officers said Napish. “Our frontline officers are very important, some of them weren’t here and I am sad for them, because they need to be honoured too. When I dance, and we dance, we dance for them, because they need protection too.” Photo by Samantha Hawkins

By Samantha Hawkins

It only seems fitting that Louie Napish, after helping to establish the Treaty Three Police Services, has returned to lead as Chief of Police and help rebuild the organization.

Having begun his policing career with the Winnipeg Police in 1992 then moving to the Dryden Police Services in 1997, Napish says Chief of Police at the time, Shayne Mackinnon allowed him the opportunity to develop the Treaty 3 services as it began.

“When the organization became functional in 2003 I became an active member. I was in charge of policy development and human resource development and worked at starting this organization off and building it.”

Promoted to sergeant in 2004 and then Deputy Chief in 2006, Napish then took some time away to help his ailing father.

“I saw the trials this department went through in my departure, and I felt the need to come back and return to help, not to lead, but to help, I’ve always felt that I am a helper. I came on when the opportunity posed itself because I realized there were some challenges here.”

Challenges such as the funding restrictions the government has imposed on their ability to operate says Napish, meaning they’re not out of the woods financially.

“We don’t have an RCMP act or police services act to fall back on for legislative dollars, we’re a program and we want to get out of that structure the government has told us we have to follow and we want a legislative body so we can operate in. Whether that’s the Police Services Act, the RCMP act or our own indigenous act under Treaty 3, which I would prefer. The patch I wear is T3, the patch we’re governed under is under our treaty which was signed 141 years ago.”

Napish maintains that Police protection is a treaty obligation, no different then health and education as assigned by the treaty (and fishing and hunting rights).

“We have to make sure that protection is fulfilled by that treaty. My job is to maintain operations, it’s our board’s job to make sure that they go and actively have both levels of government meet those obligations of that treaty.”

This year the board returned to 23 members, as it was from 2003-2010, representing the 23 First Nation communities, which Napish feels, is a more accurate representation of their communities than the prior nine-person board.

“We have had some problems the last few years, and its our new board’s mandate to steer us back, and part of that steering is not just good corporate business structure and understanding and education but it’s the sacred items supporting, finding a faith in our ability that we’re a culturally sensitive service and all of our leadership stems around our sacred items.”

Sacred items provide support, hope and something to fall back on maintains Napish.

“They’ve always been there, our drum has been there from the start but we’ve never leaned on it, and now we have to lean on it, lean on our culture to move us back in, to make us feel better, to make us feel positive to strengthen our ability to move forward and agree. There was no agreement; there was no hope last year. This year we have hope.”

With a four-year operating agreement, Treaty Three Police are starting this year off in a better position than last, and Napish feels this provides an opportunity for the service to develop and become an essential service in four years.

“I like the four year agreement because it gives me an opportunity to say ‘what have we done?’ and now I can perhaps give it to someone else. Some of our politicians stay in forever, some of us say ‘I think that’s enough, we’ve done enough’.”

Humble at heart, Napish says he realized he was best for the position based on what he was taught his whole life from the elders and community residents.

“I know what kind of policing they want, I still actively live on Eagle Lake First Nation, I drive back and forth to Kenora everyday, and I love my community, I love being a Treaty Three member.”

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