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left: Chief Perry Bellegarde with Senator Walter Bear
at the Swearing-in Ceremony
below: Chief Perry Bellegarde
With a resounding majority of ballots cast, Perry Bellegarde has become the ninth leader of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). The election was held in Saskatoon during the Spring 1998 FSIN Legislative Assembly.
Following the close of regular Assembly business, nominations were heard by the chiefs and delegates. Three candidates were forwarded and their platforms were presented during speeches in the afternoon.
Perry Bellegarde of the Little Black Bear First Nation discussed the issue of portability of treaty rights in his remarks. The 35-year-old stated that it is time to address the unfinished business of treaties and bring their implementation to the forefront. This was a consistent theme during his 12-year tenure as Tribal Representative for the Touchwood File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council.
-Chief Perry Bellegarde
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Sol Sanderson reminded the chiefs and delegates of the 40 years he has dedicated to First Nation people. A member of the James Smith First Nation, Sanderson served as Chief of the FSIN from 1979 to 1986. His campaign focused on the recognition of inherent rights and treaty rights for First Nation people.
The polls were open for two hours on the morning of April 28. The results were announced at 12:30 p.m. following the return of the election officials. Earl Magnuson, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, made the announcement to the eager audience Out of an eligible 730 voters, 688 ballots were cast with one spoiled ballot. 345 ballots were required by a candidate to win with the required 50 percent plus one.
Perry Bellegarde was clearly the victor with 452 votes. Sol Sanderson finished with 139 and Wallace Fox with 96.
In his last duty as Interim Chief, Morley Watson commended the candidates on a clean race. "We've been able to walk away with one united voice," he stated. Both Sanderson and Fox echoed these sentiments in their speeches, calling for unity and cooperation.
As the new Chief, Perry Bellegarde agreed with the call for unity saying lightheartedly, "North, south,
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east, west, we are all one. We all get the same five dollars on Treaty Day."
Chief Bellegarde has promised to direct his energies toward the federal and provincial governments. He expressed his frustration with politicians who do not acknowledge the reasons why First Nation people should not be taxed. The tax exemption, he says, is applicable for four reasons: it is a treaty right; the taxes are prepaid through the land and resources; the federal fiscal transfers cover First Nation contributions to health and education; and, finally, governments cannot tax governments.
Chief Bellegarde also stated his belief that relations between First Nation and non-First Nation peoples will return to the "mutual respect and peaceful coexistence" upon which the treaties were based. This goal is possible, he stated, if it is shared by both First Nation and non-First Nation peoples. "There is no greater force," he says, "than a vision shared by all."
Chief Bellegarde's current term will run until the fall of the year 2000.