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EXPERIENCE ON THE POLITICAL FRONT
National Level : Vice-Chief/
Assembly of First Nations
Ontario Regional Chief
in a leadership role as Ontario Regional Chief, implementing policies and directives of the Chiefs;
inter-governmental relations through advising, representing and negotiating;
as Vice-Chief participated in Constitutional and First Minister's Conferences.
Regional Level: Grand Chief/
Nishnawbe Aski Nation
performed leadership functions for 41 First Nations and facilitated the decentralization of NAN to Tribal council base;
carried out functions prescribed by Charter, hands on experience in operational and financial management;
also served as Vice Chief of NAN for one term and acting Grand Chief in 1979.
Local Level: First Nations Government/Chief and Council
served two terms in the community as First Nations Government Councillor, as well as experience working for local government.
Consensus Process: Chairperson - 6 years of experience;
a recognized leader in the process of consensus building, decision-making and dispute resolution;
expeience gained by six years of chairing national, regional and tribal organizations' assemblies attended by complex multi-party bodies reflecting diverse viewpoints.
Experience with the Issues Policing: Chair, Ontario First Nations Policing Commission Health: Panel member, Scott-McKay-Bain Health Panel supported by Chiefs and appointed by Canada to conduct Inquiry into health care issues affecting northern Ontario First Nations.
Child and Family: Founding Executive Director, Tikinagan Child and Family Services. responsible for establishing from conceptual stage, Ontario's first mandated Child and Family Service Agency for First Nations.
Social Issues: Aboriginal Representative, Social Assistance Review Committee for the Province of Ontario.
with approval from First Nations leaders, appointed by Ontario.
Economic: Consultant, Negotiation, Economic and Business Development, Organizational Development and Re-structuring.
to First Nations, individually and regionally, including private business dealings as co-founder and CEO of lumber company.
Current Focus: Wally is preparing for the establishment of a new basis in law for First Nations self-governmental activities (jurisdiction). Presently working with First Nations, defining systems of self government which will be based on First Nations jurisdiction.
[Photo on p.13]
Konrad Sioui is a hereditary chief of the Bear Clan of the Huron-Wyandot Nation, has been Chief and acted as Grand Chief of the Council of his Nation, and was elected three consecutive times Regional Chief of the First Nations, of Quebec and Labrador. During that time, he represented the region on the Executive Council of the Assembly of First Nations and acted on numerous occasions as Grand Chief under the leadership of George Erasmus.
Konrad is a nationalist and activist, a master administrator, and philosophically a believer and supporter of the political defense and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples as put forth by Rigoberta Menchu Turn. He was the official and national spokesperson on constitutional reform issues between 1984 and 1994. He won a landmark, unanimous decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in the spring of 1991 against Quebec and Canada known as the Sioui Decision. This ruling acknowledged that treaties entered into between the Crown and First Nations are international agreements entered into between sovereign nations. Mr. Sioui is also recognized by Elijah Harper as one of the main figures, along with Phil Fontaine, who actively fought against the Meach Lake Accord.
At the international level, Chief Sioui has represented the Assembly of First Nations in Geneva from 1985 to 1992. He has addressed the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples on numerous occasions on issues such as treaty rights, human rights, the rights of children and the elderly, land rights and development. He has also addressed the U.N. Commission on Human Rights about the urgent necessity to modify the U.N. Charter to allow access for indigenous peoples of the world.
Chief Sioui is a dedicated humanitarian, a diplomat and a skilled negotiator. He is a stead fast man of principle who pursues a simple and traditional lifestyle with his wife Linda Rock of the Innu Nation, and his four children on the Huron Reserve at Wendake, Quebec.
It is Chief Sioui's conviction that the Assembly of First Nations must be decentralized in order that the great and wonderful diversity of our Nations be fully appreciated and their views be fully respected and incorporated into the national perspective.
Ms. Opekokew, a member of the Canoe Lake First Nation, was born on the Canoe Lake Indian Reserve in Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan and was raised in a standard Cree speaking family.
She attended the Beauval Indian Residential School from kindergarten to Grade 8, then attended the Lebret Indian Residential School for high school and finished this phase of her education at the Robertson Secretarial School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
From 1966 to 1968, she was one of the first five staff members of the present Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. She was elected to the position of Executive Secretary of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians in Regina. She worked with Walter Deiter, in his capacity as the president of the FSIN, and in his capacity as the founder of the National Indian Brotherhood, which is now the Assembly of First Nations.
From 1968 to 1973 she worked variously as an administrative assistant to Buffy Sainte-Marie for the creation of the Native American Center for the Arts, New York, New York, was organizer of"Indian Days", at Ontario Place, was a real estate agent for Kinew Housing, a non-profit housing project in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was a narrator of Indian legends on the program"Sunday A.M.", Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in Toronto, Ontario, and was the organizing secretary to the Ontario Native Development Fund of the former Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada, in Toronto, Ontario.
She attended the University of Winnipeg for her undergraduate studies where she received the University of Winnipeg Bursary for First Year Arts with distinction. She obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, at York University in 1977, and was called to the Bar of the Province of Ontario in 1979, and the Bar of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1983.
From 1979 to 1980 she was a partner in the firm of Zlotkin & Opekokew, Toronto, Ontario, practising in family and criminal law. While articling with Mr. Zlotkin, she conducted extensive drafting of leases, permits, and other agreements for First Nations in Ontario in respect of their relationship with non-Indian interests located on their reserves.
From 1980 to 1985 she was Counsel to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She was seconded by the Assembly of First Nations to assist on the constitutional negotiations.
From 1985 to 1990 Ms.Opekokew was an associate in the firm of Blaney, McMurty, Stapells in Toronto, Ontario. In that period some of the outstanding achievements shared with others, include her represention of First Nations in the settlement of land claims. Ms.Opekokew, since 1990 has practiced as a sole practitioner with a client base from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Maritimes. She specializes in aboriginal law.
[Photo on p.13]
Mike "Kanontakeron": Mitchell is a Mohawk Citizen of the Iroquois Confederacy. He belongs to the wolfclan and has been, since his youth, a Faithkeeper of the traditional Longhouse teachings.
Kanontakeron was raised by his grandparents from St. Regis Island. During his youth, he was exposed to the traditionl teachings of his Elders, which: has prepared him for his current role as a leader in his community.
Mike Mitchell has held the office of Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne since 1984. Before that, he served ten years as Executive Director of the North American Indian Travelling College, a cultural education centre that promotes cultural awareness in Ontario. From 1968 - 74 he was employed for six years by the National Film Board as producer/director of an all Native Indian film crew. From 1980 - 82, he was National President of the Cultural Education Centres Program.
Over the last decade, he has been considered a prominent leader amongst his peers in the battle to have Canada respect the aboriginal and treaty rights.
During his term in office as Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, he has played an important role in regional and national politics. Moreover, he brought his community out of a $2 million deficit by organizing a team concept and separating politics from administration and finance.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne went from a six million dollar operation budget in 1984 to a $32 million plus budget in 1994. Mike was instrumental in building confidence in the community to take control and responsibility for the many programs which affect Mohawk people. Today Akwesasne controls many of its own institutions, including education, policing, health and social programs, environment, conservation, elections and membership.
As Grand Chief, he participated in both Ontario and Quebec Chiefs regional forums, particularly in meetings that required chiefs to work as a team to produce documents related to community issues such as self-government, First Nations/provincial relations, education, housing, health and welfare as well as treaty matters relating to hunting and fishing.
Ovide Mercredi is Cree. He was raised in a traditional Cree economy at Grand Rapids, Manitoba. While growing up, he was profoundly affected by the social upheaval that occurred as a result of a massive hydro development project at Grand Rapids. In the late 1960s his role as political activist began.
He attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in law in 1977. He practiced law on The Pas reserve in Maintoba and was legal advisor to northern First Nation communities from 1979 to 1983. During this time he became involved in constitutional discussions as well as aboriginal and treaty rights advocacy. He also served as a commissioner on the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. He was elected the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Manitoba in 1989 and became a key strategist for the Assembly during the Meech Lake Accord. He provided strong and thoughtful leadership during the OKA dispute by calling for peaceful and just solutions.
He was elected National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations in 1991. Under his leadership, the Assembly made historic advancements for First Nations. For the first time, First Nations were recognized as having inherent right to self government by the Prime Minister and the Premiers of all ten provinces.
During his leadership, he succeeded in attaining a higher profile for aboriginal issues, both nationally and internationally.
At the request of First Nations leaders, he travelled extensively to First Nations communities to address issues related to healing and recovery.
The wisdom and traditional knowledge of the Elders and the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi have shaped his political thinking and his philosophy of life.
Ovide Mercredi lives with his wife Shelley and his daughter Danielie in Orleans, Ontario.
Photos for Delia Opekokew and Wallace (Wally) McKay
were unavailable at press time.