Manitoba makes history with election of first First Nations premier of a Canadian province

By Miranda Leybourne
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Brandon Sun

Indigenous groups in the province and across the country are celebrating Wab Kinew becoming the premier-elect in Manitoba, making him the first First Nations person to do so.

Wabanakwut (Wab) Kinew has served as the leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party (NDP) and the leader of the Opposition since 2017. Representing Fort Rouge in the legislature, Kinew won his seat and his role as premier-elect on Tuesday night’s election.

The membership, staff and volunteers of the Brandon Friendship Centre have congratulated Wab Kinew for being elected premier of Manitoba in Tuesday’s provincial election.

Kinew has made campaign promises what will benefit the clients of Friendship Centres in Manitoba and all Manitobans, Jacqueline Henry, president of the Brandon Friendship Centre, told the Sun, including mashkiki — medicine in Anishinaabemowin, and the facilities to ensure all Manitobans have access to it.

“Strong and healthy Manitobans make it possible to reconciliate, moving all Manitobans forward towards a better future,” Henry said.

David Gray, president of the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres, said Kinew and his team ran a campaign that addressed the many needs of urban Indigenous Manitobans with integrity.

“We have an existing relationship with him and know that he understands the issues well. We expect that he and his team will usher in a renewed relationship with our member centres and the communities they serve,” Gray said in a press release.

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, located 50 kilometres northwest of Brandon, extended congratulations to Kinew on his appointment as the first First Nations premier of Manitoba in a press release sent out on Wednesday.

“This significant achievement is a source of immense pride for Indigenous communities across the province, representing a significant moment in Manitoba’s political history,” the release said. “In this pivotal time, we celebrate not only the accomplishments of Premier Kinew but also the inspiration he provides to Indigenous youth and communities.”

Kinew shows that with determination and perseverance, Indigenous people can achieve anything they set their minds to and gives the community a sense of hope and possibility, the release said. Sioux Valley plans to form a collaborative relationship with Kinew and his administration, working together to address pressing issues facing Indigenous communities, it went on to say.

The Sun contacted Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.

The National Government of the Red River Métis, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), congratulated Kinew on being the first Indigenous premier since John Norquay, a Red River Métis who held office in 1887.

“We congratulate Wab Kinew and his party for their successful campaign and for their attention to our priorities as Red River Métis,” MMF President David Chartrand said. “It is fitting that this province — which our Nation brought into Canada’s confederation — has become the first province to welcome a First Nations premier in Canadian history.”

Both Norquay and Louis Riel would be very proud to see Kinew become elected, and an Indigenous person leading the province, Chartrand said, adding he hopes Kinew will find inspiration from both historic figures.

The results of the election reflect the diversity of the province and its shared commitment to a strong and inclusive vision for the future, Chartrand said.

The MMF also congratulated all Indigenous people who ran in the election, and said it looks forward to fostering a government-to-government relationship with the NDP, built on an understanding of shared priorities and concerns.

Manitoba Premier-elect Wab Kinew, centre, speaks with Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand last winter at Louis Riel’s grave site at St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg, Man. Kinew was elected as the province’s next premier last Tuesday night, ousting incumbent Premier Heather Stefanson and leading an NDP majority government. – Brandon Sun file photo

From the moment the writ was dropped, Jerry Daniels,

Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), believed that the election was an opportunity for the citizens of SCO member nations to have their voices heard, he said in a press release sent out after the election.

“With an Anishinaabe man now elected as premier-designate, it’s clear that our peoples had a significant impact on the final results,” Daniels said. “First Nations have a strength-based culture, and we commend the majority of voters for rejecting the divisive campaign of the Progressive Conservatives.”

Heading into the provincial campaign, the SCO highlighted several key issues for its nations, including the affordable housing crisis, decreasing racism in the health care, policing, and correctional systems, and creating changes that improve the lives of its citizens.

For too long, First Nations in southern Manitoba have been neglected and ignored by the province, Daniels said. Now, he is excited at the opportunity to forge a new and respectful relationship with the NDP.

“I know we both share a common goal of protecting and enhancing our peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs and traditions, along with creating positive health and economic outcomes for our Nations and for all people living in Manitoba,” Daniels said.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) said that Kinew’s election as premier stands as a powerful affirmation of increased inclusivity and First Nations’ participation and representation within Manitoba’s political landscape.

Along with congratulating Kinew, a press release sent out by the AMC after the election also sent special congratulations to the First

Nations and Indigenous members of Kinew’s NDP government — Ian Bushie, MLA for Keewatinook; Nahanni Fontaine, MLA for St. John’s; Bernadette Smith, MLA for Point Douglas; Amanda Lathlin, MLA for The Pas and Kameesak; and Eric Redhead, MLA for Thompson.

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the election results are a source of great pride for Manitoba’s First Nations.

“We look forward to working closely with Premier Kinew’s government to responsibly and respectfully fulfil the aspirations of First Nations people in Manitoba,” she said.