Treaty 4 News, in partnership with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, proudly present the Ones 2 Watch. Over 10 weeks, we will present 10 individuals who are making an impact in their communities, making career moves and making people take notice of their impressive accomplishments. 

This week we focus on Cheyenne Fineday.

Cheyenne Fineday following her father’s footsteps into politics

By Chelsea Laskowski

ones2watch_sept-interior-panel-ad2The influence of Cheyenne Fineday’s family is felt in every single ambition she has today.

Each of her long-term goals – getting a Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Studies, becoming the first woman chief of Witchekan Lake First Nation, being elected FSIN Chief, becoming the first Assembly of First Nations Chief, and being crowned Miss Indian World – have a connection to her loved ones.

The 18-year-old from Witchekan Lake First Nation is in her first year of university in Regina, and her choice to pursue Indigenous Studies is tied to her father, Alvin Fineday.

He worked as a certified Cree language instructor and was on band council for 16 years. Alvin died when Cheyenne was 15.

“This is just something that he always wanted and, I don’t know, I’ve just always kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Cheyenne said.

Her father’s political life ignited her drive to become a Youth Representative with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations last year and, just this July, to become an executive member of the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council.

“I always just admired the work that he’s done in our community, and I’ve always admired the leader that he was, and I’ve always said that one day I want to grow up and be just like my dad.To get in those leadership positions,” Cheyenne said.

Each goal she’s accomplished since her father’s passing has been bittersweet, but Cheyenne said she knows it’s what her father wanted for her.

The support from her mother has been key.

“I’m just really grateful for my mom. She hates politics and she hates the roles of leadership but she still supports me in what I want to do. I just wouldn’t be able to do these things without my mom,” Cheyenne said.

In addition to her studies and political positions, in April Cheyenne was crowned Miss First Nations University Canada.

In case her schedule wasn’t busy enough, she has also decided to run for first-year representative at her university.

It’s not always easy, Cheyenne admits.

“It’s really stressful to juggle all these titles and my roles and responsibilities and be a full-time student,” she said.

She credits her strong support family system, which is led by her mother and five older brothers, for getting her through. Together, there’s rarely a weekend they aren’t visiting her in Regina.

Cheyenne admits that when she was in Grade 12, the idea of living five and a half hours away from Witchekan was so intimidating that she was thinking of taking university courses from the nearby reserve, Whitefish. She had lived on Witchekan her whole life.

“I never thought I’d ever leave the reserve,” she said.

Her message to First Nations people who feel the same, is to go for it.

“But in order to grow as young adults, we have to leave home at some point. And just think of all the great things you can do for your community once you get your degree and once you’re finished school.”

Another thing that’s kept her from getting too homesick is joining clubs and groups at university, and spending time with friends and adopted family that she’s met along the powwow trail over the years.

Cheyenne plans to build off her current title as First Nations University Canada, and someday become Miss Indian World.

Again, this inspiration is connected to Cheyenne’s family. Her mother’s friend Celeste Tootoosis held the title of Miss Indian World in the late 1980s.

Tootoosis was a role model for Cheyenne, and would share stories about her travels.

“Just being a representative for Indigenous people all over the world, it seems like a really good experience and I just always admired her for the role that she had,” Cheyenne said.

She said culture-oriented people have always been an inspiration to her.

“I grew up in a very culture-oriented family, going to ceremonies, and everyone in my family is fluent in Cree. My parents, my aunties and uncles, my grandparents,” Cheyenne said.

On the other hand, she said too many young people are out of touch with their language and cultural teachings.

She wants to be a part of closing that disconnect.

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