Naotkamegwanning’s Francis Kavanaugh was selected as the new Ogichidaa (grand chief) of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 on the fifth round of the traditional selection process.
“I never planned on running,” Kavanaugh says. “I was chairing the meeting and I got offered tobacco so that is how I became grand chief.”
Kavanaugh was selected on May 25 at the Treaty #3 Spring Assembly in Wauzhushk Onigum (Rat Portage). A former grand chief during the 1990s, he was one of eight candidates nominated for the selection process, including previous Ogichidaa Warren White, Andrew Johnson, Gary Allen, Adolphus Cameron, Jason Wilson, Eli Mandamin and Fawn Wapioke.
“I’ve been chairing meetings for many years so I know what the current issues are,” Kavanaugh says. “I’m up to date in terms of what is important for the chiefs and for the communities. So I’ve never really been out of the loop. In terms of a learning curve, I pretty well know what is going on.”
Kavanaugh plans to work with the leadership to protect treaty rights and empower Treaty #3 through its laws, organizations and people.
“Our nation has survived by the strength and resiliency of our people and we will continue to be strong in the face of the current crises affecting our communities and our nation as a whole,” Kavanaugh says. “Together the leadership will work collectively to address current challenges of mental health and addiction, housing, policing, child welfare and education inequities while being innovative and open to exploring possible economic development which benefits the nation and all of our citizens, while honouring our sacred responsibilities to the land and the water. Our women, youth and our Elders will be integral to the work being undertaken in accordance to our Anishinabe ways of governance.”
Kavanaugh says the Treaty #3 office building needs to be replaced due to its condition. The building is located on the old Cecilia Jeffrey residential school property in Kenora.
“It’s crumbling and it is not a safe place to be,” Kavanaugh says. “That will be one of my priorities is to move on trying to get a new building.”
Kavanaugh says Treaty #3 has needed a new building for a long time, noting that a sod turning ceremony was held the last time he was grand chief from 1997-1999.
“It’s still on the table and I hope we can move on that this time,” Kavanaugh says.
Kavanaugh also plans to develop good working relationships with the federal and provincial governments.
“One of the things that I find appealing is that when I was grand chief last time the MP in the area was Bob Nault,” Kavanaugh says. “And he is again, so I hope to reconnect and re-establish something with the Liberals.”
Kavanaugh also wants to work on getting communities off their boil water advisories.
“I’m from Naotkamegwanning and we’ve had boil water advisories off and on,” Kavanaugh says.
A member of the Sturgeon Clan, Kavanaugh also previously served as chief of his community for a few terms. He is married to Betty and is the father of four and grandfather of seven.
Regional Chief Isadore Day congratulated Kavanaugh on his selection as Ogichidaa.
“I want to welcome Grand Chief Kavanaugh to the Political Confederacy and look forward to working with this seasoned First Nation leader who will be a strong and committed voice for Treaty #3 territory,” Day says. “His years of experience in governance and his knowledge of the treaties will be a major benefit to our team and he will be a strong ally for First Nations citizens. I look forward to working with him on furthering First Nation priorities in the north. I also want to take this opportunity to thank former Ogichidaa Warren White for his service and hard work as both grand chief and as a member of the COO Political Confederacy.”