Community members go to the polls in Kahnawake to elect successor to late Grand Chief Joe Norton

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake main office on Montreal's South Shore. (Angela MacKenzie/CTV News)

The Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake will have a new Mohawk Council Grand Chief for the first time since the early 2000s by the end of Saturday.

Polls open in the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake elections at 9 a.m., and it is the first election since long-time Council Grand Chief Joe Norton died while in office in August.

Former council grand chief Michael Delisle Jr. served in the post from 2002 to 2015 when he was defeated by Norton, who returned to politics after retiring in 2002.

In today's election, council chiefs Gina Deer, Frankie McComber and Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer are running for grand chief along with Mohawk Bridge Consortium co-owner Sterling Deer and Keith Myiow.

Delisle said he believes the election is a changing of the guard for the Mohawk community. 

"We witness now a lot more younger people today voting, which is always good and encouraged," he said. 

Gina Deer said the people of Kahnawake are looking for a change, especially in light of mass burial sites of Indigenous children being found at former residential school sites across Canada. 

"Obviously, our community right now is in a very sad state, with all of the recent discoveries of these children across Turtle Island," she said. 

While Gina Deer said her priority is a return to a more traditional governance structure, Sterling Deer said he wants to focus on land claims. 

"The land that was expropriated from the seaway, the railway, the bridges and just all around our community and our territory. We probably lost upwards of seven to eight hundred hectares."

There are 17 candidates vying for the 11 council chief positions as well. 

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is made up of a grand chief and 11 council chiefs.

Polls close at 6 p.m., and results are announced later in the evening.

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