Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief RoseAnne Archibald came to Kahnawake this week to learn about pressing issues facing the community.
“I think giving her that overview of what our reality is was important,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer.
The meeting between the grand chief and Archibald had no agenda, but a wide range of topics were covered. As national chief, Archibald draws connections between First Nations communities across Canada and advocates on their behalf at the highest levels.
“I think it went really well,” said Sky-Deer. “We covered a lot of ground and made commitments in terms of follow-up and things we could do together, more specifically with Bill 96 and other related matters.”
The two were joined by AFN regional chief for Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard.
“The national chief has spent much time visiting communities in Quebec since her election last year, possibly more than any previous national chief,” said Picard.
“I have always found it important for the national office to get a good read of the political context in our respective regions as regional chiefs.”
Picard cited Bill 96, the law purported to strengthen the French language in the province; Bill 15, which pertains to youth protection; and proposals from Quebec in terms of Indigenous languages and cultural safety in hospitals as issues of regional importance that were discussed.
MCK chief Ryan Montour, who also participated, spoke about housing issues.
Sky-Deer broached the topic of online betting with Archibald, who promised to connect Sky-Deer with chiefs in Saskatchewan who have also dealt with the fed- eral government on gaming-related matters.
“We’ve been the leaders in online gaming for 25-plus years now with Mohawk Internet Technologies and the development of our own regulatory framework, and we feel like we’re the leaders in the industry,” said Sky-Deer, emphasizing the importance of this own-source revenue to fund community initiatives.
“We advocated for some changes to the criminal code to accommodate First Nations people, and it fell on deaf ears.... First Nations are unique and we need to be treated as such.”
In addition to talking about the issues, Sky-Deer led Archibald on a tour of Kahnawake.
“She was extremely impressed,” Sky-Deer said. “She was like, ‘wow, this is the kind of place First Nations wish their community would look like.’”
Archibald described the vitality of Kahnawake in a Facebook post following the visit.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the many independent businesses on the territory, including a recently opened vintage (and) thrift shop,” she wrote.
“It was great to see so many indoor and outdoor spaces dedicated to children, youth, and families, which are always the hallmark of a strong and healthy community.”
This meeting comes following a summer of turbulence for the national chief when she was suspended in June after speaking publicly about staff complaints against her that were being investigated.
Archibald claimed she had been targeted because of her quest to challenge corruption at the AFN. She was reinstated a few weeks later following a vote at a meeting of the assembly.
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door