'Right woman' at the 'right time': Yukon First Nation leaders react to new AFN chief-elect

·3 min read
In Yukon, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill kept a close eye on the vote and says Archibald's win sends an encouraging message to other women. (Fritz Mueller - image credit)
In Yukon, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill kept a close eye on the vote and says Archibald's win sends an encouraging message to other women. (Fritz Mueller - image credit)

Some Indigenous leaders in Yukon are applauding the new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

Former Ontario regional chief RoseAnne Archibald — the first woman elected to the role — won on Thursday after Reginald Bellerose, chief of Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan, conceded following the fifth ballot.

In Yukon, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, who kept a close eye on the vote this week, says it sends an encouraging message to other women.

"I think it's a historic win not just for Indigenous women, but for all women," Bill said. "I think it tells us that we can achieve anything if we want to. And we are capable of holding the highest offices in the country."

The assembly says it represents 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities across Canada.

Submitted by Laura Barrios
Submitted by Laura Barrios

In her victory speech, Archibald, a member of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation (formerly New Post First Nation) in northern Ontario, said her election breaks the glass ceiling. The historic vote comes at a time when many members of the assembly have been calling for change in both the style and substance of their leadership.

Bill said Archibald is the "right woman for the job at the right time."

"We're facing a lot of different issues right now, such as the recovery of our children and having a matriarch in the highest office to lead the way is what's really needed right now."

AFN 'long-dominated by men'

The position needs someone who is compassionate and nurturing, said Bill, but also someone "who's strong and can move things along and make the kind of changes that we need to make."

That includes moving along a resolution that Bill helped bring forward previously, which has a stated purpose "to end sexual orientation and gender-based discrimination and all other forms of violence, including sexualized violence, lateral-violence and bullying in the organization."

Bill said Archibald had a strong voice when the resolution was brought to the floor.

"With her help, we got the resolution through and there were many people that were expecting it to fail." She added that the AFN is an organization that has been "long-dominated by men," and that men have "had a lock on the election for a long, long time."

When it comes to how AFN's relationship with the federal government might look, Bill said Archibald is "no pushover."

"She is a strong, strong woman," Bill said. "I have seen her voice her concerns, you know, at critical moments and very forcefully … She will be able to get our issues through."

Bill said she's aware Archibald wants to work on an action plan for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recommendations, and she's hoping to be a part of that.

"This is something I think that is important to all of us at this moment in time," Bill said.

'Matriarch to lead'

The AFN Yukon Region also congratulated Archibald on her recent election.

"This election is historic and inspirational because for the first time, First Nations have elected a matriarch to lead our organization," said Kluane Adamek the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations – Yukon Region in a written statement.

Submitted by Kluane Adamek
Submitted by Kluane Adamek

"National Chief-elect Archibald demonstrates her commitment to affect meaningful change for our First Nations women, daughters, non-binary relatives, our brothers and our sisters."

Adamek said she looks forward to working with Archibald on the priorities and interests of the 14 Yukon First Nations.

"As we continue to navigate these particularly challenging and heavy times, Yukon First Nations look to the National Chief-elect Archibald to support our efforts to protect and advance our Indigenous rights," the statement said.

Adamek also wrote that the region looks to Archibald to "support our efforts to move beyond the pandemic; support our efforts to protect our families, lands, environment; and to support our efforts to bring our lost lives of our children home."

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