Making history, RoseAnne Archibald of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation in Ontario is the first woman to be elected as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Canada.

A third-generation Chief in her family, Archibald will head the AFN, which represents 634 First Nations with over 900,000 members.

She brings more than three decades of experience in First Nations politics. In 1990, at only 23-years-old, Archibald was the first and youngest Chief elected for the Taykwa Tagamou Nation.

She is also the first and youngest woman to sit in the role of Deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation and the first woman elected as Ontario Regional Chief.

A grassroots activist and leader, Archibald says the AFN, under her guidance, will better reflect its members.

“I will be revitalising and involving the Assembly of First Nations organisation to reflect the people that it serves by making the AFN a more responsive organisation that reflects regions and nations,” she said.

She noted her commitment to ensuring the AFN is a safe space for both “women, LGBTQIA+ peoples and all of our citizens”.

“You can tell all the women in your life that the glass ceiling has been broken.”

Archibald’s campaign focused predominantly upon ushering in a new era for the AFN, including the development of a post-pandemic recover plan for First Nations and better inclusion and safety for women.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) congratulated Archibald on the win via Twitter.

“We’d like to congratulate Chief RoseAnne on her election as National Chief of the AFN,” they said.

“We hope that, as an Indigenous woman herself, she will work hard to ensure that Indigenous women’s issues are high on the agenda. We need to work together to end the ongoing MMIWG [Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls] genocide.”

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) also congratulated Archibald on her appointment.

“I share my heart-felt congratulations to National Chief Archibald and am inspired to see more representation of Indigenous women occupying spaces of leadership that have been held by Indigenous men for so long,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer.

“It can be an upstream journey as First Nations women paddling against the systems that oppress us; however, this historic election represents a tide that is turning for greater representation of Indigenous women in politics, and the restoration of our traditional roles as leaders of our communities and Nations.”

UBCIC President, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, said he was “absolutely thrilled” to see Archibald in the position.

“Many of our Nations were traditionally led by matriarchs and I am heartened today to see an imposed patriarchal system challenged by our people who have elected National Chief Archibald to provide the intelligent, thoughtful and bold leadership that is needed in these changing times,” he said.

Archibald takes on the role in a time of grief for First Nations, with multiple discoveries of mass graves at former Indian Residential Schools across the country.

“With the recent discovery and recovery of our little ones across this country, we are all awake and what people need to understand and what people need to come to terms with is how settler Canadians have benefited from these colonial practices and how we, as Indigenous People, have been the target of genocide,” she said.

“We are going to stare this straight in the face and kick colonial policies to the curb. Change is happening.”

She has championed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s 94 calls to action, including the establishment of memorials to survivors and infrastructure and resources for community healing.

“We need a national process for healing for our people, for our intergenerational survivors, for our survivors but we also need for all Canadians to heal together,” she said.

By Rachael Knowles