By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Early last month, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) announced their candidates for the 2021 election of the AFN National Chief.
This election is significant because the current chief Perry Bellegarde, who has held the role since 2014, announced he would not be seeking re-election this year.
“I will be both excited and anxious,” he said, “but most of all, proud of the work we did together.”
The AFN, which represents more than 600 First Nations in Canada, holds an election every three years for the position.
The 2021 election for the Office of the National Chief will take place on Wednesday, July 7 during the AFN Annual General Assembly (AGA), which will be happening from July 6-8.
This election stream has received seven candidates, with two of them being from Alberta.
Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse is a Cree and Mohawk woman from Michel First Nation in Treaty 6 Territory.
She is currently an Edmonton Police Commissioner and the executive director of the Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation. Calahoo-Stonehouse is also a former band councillor and founder/producer at Miyo-Pimatisiwin Production.
“All of the things that I’ve done around my post-secondary education, being a commissioner for the Edmonton city police have all been about systems thinking to develop and train me on what I might bring to the national assembly,” says Calahoo-Stonehouse.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Calahoo-Stonehouse believes that a different approach is needed for the position.
“This demonstrates that things are different and we need to chose different leaders, different styles of doing things. The future is unpredictable and we know we need to be innovative and strategize.”
If Calahoo-Stonehouse were to win the election, she would be the first woman to hold the role of AFN’s National Chief.
Lee Crowchild, the second candidate from Alberta, is a former Chief of the Tsuut’ina First Nation located near Calgary.
Crowchild, who served as Tsuut’ina’s chief from 2016 to 2019, said in a press release announcing his running, “we have been in a perpetual state of dependence, reduced status and the social and psychological ills those create. We have to see ourselves in a different light.”
The former Tsuut’ina chief was instrumental in creating a business charter that helped provide the First Nation with billions of dollars in development, such as the opening of the very first on-reserve Costco in Canada.
“More and more non-First Nations see that the time has come for a fundamentally different dynamic between Canada and First Nations. Social momentum is on our side. We harness that momentum and simply take our place as equal partners with the Crown,” said Crowchild.
The full list of nomination is as follows:
- Rosanne Archibald (ON), Taykwa Tagamou Nation
- Reginald Bellerose (SK), Muskowekwan First Nation
- Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse (AB), Michel First Nation
- Lee Crowchild (AB), Tsuut’ina First Nation
- Alvin Fiddler (ON), Nishnawbe Aski Nation
- Kevin T. Hart (MB), Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation
- Cathy Martin (QC), Listuguj Mi’gmag Nation