A letter obtained by the Free Press shows regional Indian Affairs officials are stepping in because of alleged corruption.
The move comes after the department stood by while the chief and two of the four band councillors were allowed to be re-elected in January after Ottawa ousted them from power for corruption.
Vote-buying has been common since the 1980s at the Ojibwa community of about 1,000 — 674 of whom are eligible to vote — 260 kilometres north of Winnipeg in Manitoba's Interlake.
The Jan. 29 election was allowed to proceed despite department officials knowing about the vote-buying and in the face of calls from the community to stop the election.
Indian Affairs officials had dissolved the council, led by veteran Chief Hector Shorting, in early December, citing election corruption and set Jan. 29 as the date to elect a new chief and council.
In January, Shorting and his council stood for re-election — to the outrage of some band members who complained to media and the federal government that Ottawa was allowing corruption to continue.
The election went ahead and the old administration was re-elected.
Four days later, residents of Little Saskatchewan stepped up the pressure, staging a demonstration outside Indian Affairs' regional headquarters in downtown Winnipeg.
At the same time, a leaked Indian Affairs report into allegations of vote-buying in band elections showed the incumbent chief openly admitted to the practice and that Ottawa knew about it.
Publicly, an Indian Affairs spokeswoman in Ottawa said at that time the department could only say they were aware of voter dissatisfaction.
Behind closed doors, however, it now appears federal officials were working on a way to sideline the chief and council.
The intervention is a notice dated Feb. 4 to Little Saskatchewan chief and council and First Nation administrators.
It states federal officials were calling the chief to a hearing to determine whether to stage a takeover of the band's business. The band has been run by a financial manager who worked with the local government until now.
However, the notice said the intervention would decide whether to remove chief and council from involvement with the day-to-day operation of the First Nation, by appointing a third-party manager to take over instead.
A request to Indian and Northern Affairs officials in Ottawa for clarification on the notice and the outcome of the hearing was not answered.