By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A Manitoba First Nations community has elected a female Chief for the first time in decades, and with her election victory last week, Kyra Wilson will now become only the second woman to ever serve as
“I am beyond grateful for all of the support I have received,” 35-year old Wilson said in a statement she released on Saturday.
“Thank you to all the citizens of Long Plain First Nation.
“Thank you for trusting me and believing in my ability to support our community.”
The statement came after Long Plain First Nation, a community of approximately 4,500 band members that sits near the city of Portage la Prairie, went to the polls last Thursday to select their next Chief and Band Council, and voted in Wilson as Chief.
With her election victory Wilson, who is a therapist and former social worker, will now be only the second female Chief in the community’s history, and the first one to take on the role since the early 1970s when the late Marlene Peters served as Chief.
Wilson said she believes it is important to acknowledge former Chief Peters who she said “set a path” for female leadership in First Nations communities back in the 1970’s.
“She became Chief in 1973 and she worked hard for our community,” Wilson said. “I will continue to honour the work she set forth in becoming our first female Chief.
“It is important that we honour the path she set forth for female leadership.”
Wilson will now also become the first new Chief in the community in more than two decades, as long-time Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches decided not to run for reelection this year after serving as Chief for more than 20 years along with another six years as a councillor.
Earlier this year after making his own decision not to run for another term, Meeches officially endorsed Wilson for Chief, and Wilson said she is grateful for Meeches’ support, and considers him to be a “mentor.”
“He has served our community for 26 years, he is an inspiration and a great leader,” Wilson said.
Wilson says one of her main priorities will now be to bring more and improved services into her community. Currently in Long Plain and in many First Nations communities, residents are often forced to travel or to permanently move away just to access services and programs in areas like health care, education, and mental health, she said.
Wilson said she also plans to listen to community members and to learn what they want to see from their Chief and leadership team moving forward.
“As Chief, I will always acknowledge each and every band member,” Wilson said. “We’re all family and come from the same community.
“I have heard many ideas and visions for Long Plain First Nation. I will do my best to bring the change that has been asked for by our people.
“The work starts today, and I hope to make you proud.”
Long Plain First Nation also voted in four band councillors last week as Allen Dennis Myran, Keely Assiniboine, Marvin Daniels and Garnet Meeches were all voted to serve on council.
The Long Plain First Nation said that all election results were still considered unofficial as of Monday, and that they expect to make an official announcement about the results sometime later this week.
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.