National Chief RoseAnne Archibald was elected on July 8 as the first woman to hold the post after candidate Reginald Bellerose withdrew from the election after losing 32 votes on the fifth ballot. A sixth ballot had been announced before Bellerose withdrew because the winning candidate needed at least 60 per cent of votes to be declared as national chief. Archibald had 205 votes, which was 50.5 per cent of the 406 registered representatives for the national chief election, while Bellerose had 144 votes and 35.5 per cent. There were 350 votes cast on the fifth ballot, including one abstained vote.
“My election as the first woman is a victory for all women, First Nations, Indigenous and women everywhere,” Archibald says during a July 9 press conference. “We saw a historic win with Kahs (Kahsennenhawe) Sky-Deer in Kahnawake as the first woman grand chief, Mary Simon was appointed as the first Governor General Indigenous woman and the AFN (Assembly of First Nation) chiefs have joined in this her-storical change. It’s absolutely essential that women and girls everywhere can see themselves represented at the Assembly of First Nations in a leadership role.”
Archibald says her gender was not the reason she was elected as national chief. She previously served as regional chief, two terms as deputy grand chief, two terms as chief of Taykwa Tagamou Nation and as grand chief of Mushkegowuk Council.
“It is the 31 years of experiences at every political level that has gotten me here,” Archibald says. “Women are worthy, women are capable, women are highly skilled. Our colonial and patriarchal systems need to be deconstructed and dismantled so that women and gender-diverse people can find a space in the leadership positions. The systems must be able to recognize women based on our ability to hold positions of authority and influence. Taking on this role gives women hope everywhere, not only that they can strive to be the national chief but they will also know that they can pursue their own dreams and create their own her-story.”
Archibald says her “positive vision for the future” encompasses a healthy AFN organization that strengthens First Nation communities.
“Further, First Nations sovereignty, jurisdiction and inherent rights are at the centre of my work, that those inherent and treaty rights will be recognized, honoured and implemented,” Archibald says. “We do have a 100-day plan, which includes a number of items, but there are some key issues facing First Nations that I want to tell you that are in some way going to be a part of my 100-day plan. The recovery of our children at former residential schools is a priority.
There must be truth before reconciliation. I will support and advocate for resources for ongoing healing from intergenerational trauma, from colonization, particularly residential schools.”
Archibald says she will be calling on the government partners as the new national chief to advance “true reconciliation” and to build an action plan to implement all 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action.
“With the recent recovery of our little ones, there is a healing path forward and we can only get there by working together,” Archibald says. “Other issues that face our people are the implementation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls action plan — this is a priority.”
Archibald says they also have to address systemic racism within the health and justice systems.
“We have to face the climate change crisis we are in,” Archibald says. “We’re seeing wildfires in B.C. that are razing whole communities to the ground — we have to take action.”
Archibald had 206 votes and 50.7 per cent on the fourth ballot while Bellerose had 176 votes and 43.3 per cent. There was one abstained vote the fourth ballot.
Former grand chief Alvin Fiddler withdrew from the election after the third ballot, where he had 64 votes and 17.9 per cent. Archibald had 129 votes and 36.1 per cent while Bellerose had 144 votes and 40.3 per cent. Candidate Jodi
Calahoo-Stonehouse was eliminated after the third ballot where she had the lowest votes, with 20 votes and 5.6 per cent.
Candidate Kevin T. Hart was eliminated from the election after the second ballot where he had the lowest votes, with 25 votes and 7.1 per cent.
Candidates Cathy Martin and Chief Lee Crowchild were eliminated from the election after the first ballot, where Martin had 15 votes and 4.1 per cent and Crowchild had seven votes and 1.9 per cent.
Bellerose led the election for the first three ballots, with a one-vote lead on the first ballot, a three-vote lead on the second ballot and a 15-vote lead on the third ballot.