Canada’s journey to ‘making wolf’

As a nominated candidate for ‘National Chief’ of the Assembly of First Nations, Chief Lee Crowchild believes that honesty and accountability are at the root of Canada’s recovery.

By Kristy Archibald | June 29, 2021 |7:00 am

Photo: Chief Lee Crowchild // Submitted

There’s a big reset button that’s been set, not just for Canada, but all around the globe!

Former Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Lee Crowchild, tells us that the pandemic has created this reset and it’s also created a chance suddenly for First nations and for Chiefs all across Canada to reevaluate the systems that they know haven’t worked for a long time and make sure they’re relevant for the needs and wants of today.

Crowchild is among six others who are running for the ‘National Chief’ of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), an elected position with a three-year mandate in Ottawa. This position doesn’t have voting powers in parliament or any other election, rather it opens the door for dialogue between the Chiefs of Canada and the Canadian Government itself.

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Getting elected into this position is a great honour, and so is getting nominated. To be nominated, Crowchild tells us you must have signatures from 15 Chiefs from across Canada — six that are outside your own province. The election will be held on July 7 and all 647 Chiefs of Canada will vote to determine who will lead and represent Canadian first nations for the next three years.

Crowchild’s three guiding principles for Canada’s economic recovery

“Like every country, we need to go into economic recovery and there’s many First Nations that can actually help in that dialogue with provincial and federal governments about what that looks like,” says Crowchild. “But there also has to be environmental sustainability, something that is at the core of First Nations value systems — your symbiotic relationship to the land, is really front and center to support everything.

He continues to elaborate on the last two principles that are part of his vision — social impact, and how we’re sustaining our spiritual sustainability.

“As long as we’re addressing all four principles, we’ll be on the right track.”

Crowchild’s vision for Canada’s future

When he was sitting Chief an important part of his mandate was to tear down the fences that separate us and begin building bridges.

“I did this very successfully with the City of Calgary and that’s how I stimulated economic development for our nation because we had to be really honest in our conversations.”

There’s a long-standing narrative tied in with that amongst the First Nations peoples that is a way of thinking called ‘making wolf.’ Crowchild says that it’s about getting honest and telling the whole truth about what actually happened, and what your role was in that incident.

“This was based on wars a long time ago because eventually, both sides had to come together and tell the truth about the battle — no matter what the outcome.”

Mirroring this concept to modern-day, Crowchild explains that it’s about non-natives dealing with this idea of racism and for First Nations, it’s the idea of dealing with the prejudices — two concepts that both have the same outcome.

“When treaties were signed the Government governed with the Indian Act, which was their weapon of choice,” says Crowchild. “That allowed them not to have to tell the truth and they could do whatever as long as it could be shown in the Indian Act.”

This included horrific deeds such as the distribution of smallpox blankets to the First Nations communities, the implementation of residential schools, and the millennial scoop where Indigenous children continued to be taken away from their families, even up until today.

On the First Nation’s side, Crowchild tells us that they agreed they weren’t going to kill people and they read that they would share what’s above the ground.

“So to fight back, since we couldn’t fight anymore, we decided to use our bodies. We said ‘You want me to be a ward of the state? Well, we’re going to use alcohol, we’re going to use drugs, and I’m going to use my body and sell it for sex. We became commodities — that’s how we fought back.’ If they were going to take away our dignity and all these things, this was how they were going to pay for it.  

“We’ve commodified ourselves in some ways and that comes from prejudice and being mad about what white people have done to us — so we need to adjust that idea in our own prejudices.”

It’s time to begin slowly building bridges

This becomes a national debate.

“Eventually everybody, those who are First Nations and our sovereign rights and those who are Canadian, regardless of the colour of your skin or your ethnicity there’s a real conversation that has to happen,” says Crowchild. “Will it happen in my time? In my wishful thinking, yes, but in reality, it’s going to take a few years to get there.”

Right now the constitution isn’t in focus for anybody right now, rather it’s our recovering economy.

“But we do it in a very proactive way. We agree to say ‘Yep, we’re going to talk about this in the future, but in the meantime, we’re gonna rebuild a little bit of Canada — so we begin to understand what it means to be equal to each other.”

Learn more about Crowchild’s bid for National Chief.

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Kristy Archibald

Contributor at Calgary Citizen

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