Harry Lafond

Profile - Chief Harry Lafond

By Ivan Morin

Reprinted with permission from
Eagle Feather News - June 1999 - pg.14

Harry LafondOver the years I have had an opportunity to interview a number of Chiefs and politicians, but few have struck me as being the epitome of calm, cool and collected. Chief Harry Lafond, of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is certainly an individual who epitomizes that type of personality.

I have had an opportunity to watch Chief Lafond at meetings, which he and I have attended and he is always attentive and hardly ever seems hurried, or frazzled by anything going on around him.

I interviewed Chief Lafond in the Boardroom of the Cornerstone of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation's economic development ventures, Veterans Plaza, at the Asimakaniseekan Aski Reserve #102A, on the edge of Saskatoon. Lafond was in one of the many meetings he is required to attend on a daily basis to keep up on his Nations business ventures, and he made the time to speak with EAGLE FEATHER NEWS, without making any fuss, or appearing hurried about the interview.

Chief Harry Lafond, has been the Chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation for the past ten years and he has visibly changed how things are done at every level of his community in that time. 'When I started as Chief, Chief and Council were the only administrators and sole decision makers on the reserve. We have now moved to a process where we have set up community committees and boards in all aspects of our community development. This process is called community development in theory and principle. It creates movement in the community and empowers the people of the community to do something if they are involved in the decision making process. Instead of having a few people making the decisions you have a number of people making decisions in their area of interest or expertise,' Lafond stated.

Lafond's tenure as Chief has seen a lot of movement on the reserve with improvements in every sector of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation such as, health, education, justice, housing and recently they began revamping their culture and recreation programs. Lafond states, 'We are using the community development theory, and to this point it has worked and we will continue to use this format as long as it works'.

Lafond is a very strong supporter of this process because he believes it has several benefits. It empowers the members of the community to take responsibility in their community. They have a role to play in the growth of their community. It allows the community to grow. It allows Chief and Council to become governors and to become more effective. 'I can see the difference in policy and we are developing policy which allows the band staff and community to develop policy on all levels of our community development. When the policy is developed it is then taken to the membership and then to Council for ratification. This process provides the community ownership and a chance to buy into the whole plan'.

Lafond points out that the final stage of this process and most important part of the process is evaluation. 'We have an evaluation process in place for all our programs. The key to the success of this type of administration is in the evaluation process all the way through a particular policy decision. The most important and satisfying thing is seeing the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation People looking at their community with pride. The pride is in the fact that they have made these improvements in their community themselves,' said Chief Lafond.

Chief Harry Lafond, who is fifty years old, is married and the father of 5 children, was a teacher before he became the Chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. Lafond stated that what drives him in most of his decision making processes is his teaching background. What he learned as a teacher he attempts to use in his position as Chief. "I love teaching. I've been involved with young people through my teaching, sports and culture, and it has helped me in my ability to be a leader," he said.

I asked Chief Lafond how he appears so calm and collected all the time. He smiled and then took on a serious look and simply stated, 'I try to stay balanced in my daily life and my academic learning and spiritual growth. I try to emulate honesty, forthrightness, and acceptance of people regardless of their circumstance, and to be a person of dignity.'

Two mentors in his life have been Lester Lafond, entrepreneur and life-long friend, and his mother Rose Lafond, whom he states was his spiritual mentor.

In his final statement, Lafond said, 'One of things that we need to do as First Nations and Aboriginal people is to show the rest of the world that we can be on an equal footing with them. We can do this as long as we take ownership of our own growth.'

Words well spoken by a man who appears to live by them through his actions and his leadership.

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