Historic election sees first female Assembly of First Nations national chief

Chief RoseAnne Archibald

TORONTO – The election to replace Perry Bellegard as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) went into overtime last week, taking five ballots over two days to winnow the field of seven candidates down to two. In the end, history was made as former Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald became the first female to be elevated to the post.

“On behalf of the Chiefs in Ontario, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to National Chief RoseAnne Archibald,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare of M’Chigeeng, who was himself just recently elected to his post after the retirement of Ms. Archibald. “Over the last three years, RoseAnne Archibald has done exceptional work in advancing First Nations priorities in Ontario across all sectors and has worked diligently to protect First Nations communities alongside the Leadership Council during the COVID-19 pandemic,” continued Regional Chief Hare. “I look forward to continuing to work with National Chief Archibald over the coming years.”

United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Tribal Chair and Ogima-kwe of Aundeck Omni Kaning Patsy Corbiere said “I think it’s history-making that a woman is at that level, it has always been a man before.”

Ogimaa-kwe Corbiere said that the new national chief “has the stamina to be able to deal with the job” but added that she will now “have to prove herself as a leader.”

Ogimaa-kwe Corbiere said that the new national chief was one of the youngest chiefs to ever be elected to lead her First Nation and that she went on to become the first female Ontario Regional Chief.

Candidate Reginald Bellerose led the ballot through the first day’s ballots and into the third, but by the fourth ballot on the second day, National Chief Archibald had pulled ahead. Third and fourth place candidates Alvin Fiddler of Ontario and Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse withdrew on the fourth ballot, throwing their support behind National Chief Archibald.

Under AFN election rules, the winning candidate must secure 60 percent of the vote in order to be elected. Although National Chief Archibald only garnered 50.5 percent on the fifth ballot, Mr. Bellerose conceded the race at that point.

There were 406 chiefs and proxies registered to vote and 350 votes were cast on the final ballot. 

National Chief Archibald ran on a platform of building a post-pandemic recovery plan for First Nations, supporting community-driven solutions that encourage economic self-sufficiency and ensuring women, youth and 2SLGBTQQIA people have space within AFN political processes, notes a release from the Chiefs of Ontario.

“This was a historic week for First Nations across the country and I applaud National Chief Archibald’s work in breaking the glass ceiling and sending a strong message to our youth, women and 2SLGBTQIIA community members that they are welcome in this arena as political leaders, activists and representatives of their community,” said Ontario Regional Chief Hare.

On July 12 the Chiefs of Ontario hosted a National Chief Welcome Celebration to celebrate newly elected AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald. This event will include opening remarks by Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare and co-Hosts Chief Mark Hill and Chief Stacey Laforme, followed by GIIWEWIZH (to carry home), a fantastic lineup of Indigenous musicians from Ontario who shared their music and connection to land and place, identity and their creative process. 

The National Chief Welcome Celebration was livestreamed on the internet at coonationalchiefcelebration.neme.tv.