By Mervin Brass

(Winnipeg, MB) When Perry Bellegarde won the AFN election, it triggered a historic occasion for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Kim Jonathan will be the first woman to occupy the FSIN’s Office of the Chief on an interim capacity.

“It is an important time for First Nations women in politics. There are renewed opportunities for us to be able to speak on behalf of our babies here and babies on their way and to provide balance to our communities,” Chief Jonathan said in a press release.

According to the FSIN Executive Act, the Federation’s First Vice Chief takes on the role of the Chief of the FSIN if there is a sudden vacancy.

“We’ll get together as an Executive and with the Senate to collaborate on going forward and what that means,” said interim FSIN Chief Jonathan after the AFN election. “We’ll get our direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly and we’ll continue with that.”

The release noted that the FSIN will continue to work to uphold and protect inherent Treaty Rights under the direction of Saskatchewan Chiefs, and use the resources that are available to them as leaders, “We have been taught that a good leader takes the people to places they would not have gone to on their own,” said Chief Jonathan. “One of our strongest teachings is that leaders need to be guided by spiritual principles, that there is a power greater than human beings.”

The next scheduled election for the FSIN is October of 2015.

The Office of the Chief, the Office of the First and Third Vice Chiefs are up for renewal.

Chief Delbert Wapass from the Thunderchild Cree Nation, hopes there is enough support for Jonathan to do the job.

“If Chiefs are comfortable with her continuing in that capacity the question is how long,” said Wapass. “I believe she can continue on but there needs to be the support from the Tribal Councils and the Chiefs to guide her work. You look at the veteran who’s there, Dutch Lerat, Vice Chief, he’ll be able to either step up if called upon or help guide her in the work that needs to happen.”

Wapass believes an election at the FSIN can happen sooner than later.

“In a perfect world that’s what I think should happen but I think the economics dictate what’s going to happen,” said Wapass. “The term was going to be up in nine months anyways.”

Chief Edward Henderson from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation says Jonathan has been doing a good job.

“The process is there,” said Henderson. “I think we should stick to October. October will be a great time to move things forward.”

“I think this is historical in regards to the FSIN. Kim Jonathan is now our first female Chief,” said Pasqua First Nation Chief Todd Peigan. “I think with the current finances of the FSIN, we can’t afford an election now.”

Bellegarde says he will help Jonathan with the transition from Vice Chief to interim Chief.

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