by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On January 7, 2021 the Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations announced that it has appointed Okimaw (Chief) Vernon Watchmaker of Kehewin Cree Nation as the next Grand Chief of the Confederacy, succeeding Chief Billy Morin.
“Watchmaker will continue the many successes under Chief Morin including his urban initiative, as well as, build upon the Protocol with the Province of Alberta,” said the Confederacy in a press release.
The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was created in the Spring of 1993 with the purpose of serving as the United political voice for those Treaty Nations who are signatories of Treaty No. 6 for the continued protection of the fundamental Treaty, Inherent and Human Rights of the Treaty peoples of those Nations.
“Okimaw Watchmaker brings a wealth of experience and education. We look forward to working with him and ensuring that our shared visions are realized.” said Okimaw Greg Desjarlais, Chief of the Frog Lake First Nation.
Throughout his career, Watchmaker has been Okimaw of the Kehewin Cree Nation and Council member; an analyst, technician and project lead for lands and resources, economic development, education, and the energy sector; a technician for the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, in lands and consultation and so on.
In 2011, Okimaw graduated from the University of Alberta, with a bachelor’s degree in Native studies and Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Partnership. He also graduated from Kehewin Cree Nation School (which was designed by the world renowned architect Douglas Cardinal and was the first school to be built on a First Nation).
“The First Nations of Treaty No. 6 should be included in resource development so that our youth can gain meaningful employment and ensure prosperity for future generations.” said Okimaw Vernon Watchmaker. “When First Nations are at the table, we can ensure that development occurs respectfully with protections for our traditional lands and waters.”
The Confederacy is home to 16 First Nations across Treaty 6.
The press release finished with, “The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations is dedicated to ensuring that the terms, spirit and intent of Treaty No. 6 are honoured and respected. The inherent rights of the Treaty No. 6 First Nations must be honoured and respected.”