Honouring our Leaders
Grand Chiefs of Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and the Executive Council joined with Chiefs, community members and other leaders to honour of all of NAN’s Grand Chiefs at a gala event in Thunder Bay May 27, 2015.
“From the very beginning with Andrew Rickard these leaders laid the foundation of our Nation and it was an honour to recognize the commitment and dedication of each and every one of our past Grand Chiefs,” said Grand Chief Harvey Yesno, who was honoured along with the former Grand Chiefs. “The contribution our former Grand Chiefs is immeasurable, and it was fitting to honour their legacy of leadership, guidance and friendship, which has improved our lives and strengthened our Nation.”
Many former Grand Chiefs were in attendance and shared powerful stories about their time in leadership, including heartfelt reflections on their years of service while working to improve the lives of the people of Nishnawbe Aski.
“This appreciation dinner provided us an opportunity to reflect on where we came from, where we’re going to go, and the challenges facing our people today,” said Wally McKay, who continues to work advance First Nations’ interests as a consultant. “I think it was important that we took this time to reflect on the past. We have made significant progress from the time I was Grand Chief and I look forward to even greater things for our people.”
Eight people have served as Grand Chief since the founding of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, formerly known as Grand Council Treaty No. 9:
- Grand Chief Andrew Rickard
Founding President of Grand Council Treaty No. 9 (1973-1977)
Founding Grand Chief Nishnawbe Aski Nation (1978-1979)
- Grand Chief Dennis Cromarty (1980-1981, 1984-1988)
- Grand Chief Wally McKay (1981-1983)
- Grand Chief Frank Beardy (1983-1984)
- Grand Chief Bentley Cheechoo (1988-1994)
- Grand Chief Charles Fox (1994-2000)
- Grand Chief Stan Beardy (2000-2012)
- Grand Chief Harvey Yesno (2012-present)
“Being honoured like this touches you very personally because of the work we have enjoyed doing and continue to do for the people, and it was gratifying to see the families and Chiefs supporting their former and current leaders,” said Ben Cheechoo, the director of NAN’s Governance Secretariat. “Many of our leaders have passed, but it was heartwarming to join with those who are still with us to share our stories. It brought back a lot of good memories, and even some painful ones, but that’s nature of the work we do.”
Portraits of each Grand Chief were unveiled and will hang in a place of honour in NAN’s administrative offices in Thunder Bay.
“My wife Meladina and I were very happy to have seven of our children and two grandchildren witness and hear the first-hand experiences of all the leadership. The impact on us as a family is immeasurable,” said Charles Fox, a consultant who, with his wife, founded a group home to assist high-risk children.
“Each leader has contributed in their own dynamic way to the success and unity within our NAN communities. It was a pleasure to serve as leader for Nishnawbe Aski Nation for four consecutive terms. Along with the dedicated Deputy Grand Chiefs I worked with over the years we accomplished many positive initiatives, built foundations for change and strengthened relationships with government, industry and each other,” said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy. “I want to thank the leaders that have served and I wish future leaders wisdom and strength in carrying on the dreams of our Elders and the hopes of our young people.
NAN’s current Executive Council including Grand Chief Yesno, Deputy Grand Goyce Kakegamic, Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit and Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, were also honoured for their leadership over the past term.
IMAGE GALLERY BELOW: