Exiting grand chief in Alberta vows to keep fighting for MMIW

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
Confederacy of Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial says she will continue to be a strong advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women as her nine-month tenure as grand chief comes to an end in a couple weeks.

Martial was the first ever female elected to the position of chief in the Treaty 6 confederacy. She was elected into the interim position last fall taking the place that was previously filled by the now Assembly of First Nations regional Grand Chief Craig Mackinaw. Martial said her role as grand chief is rotated yearly throughout the tribal chief members.

A few months into serving as grand chief, Martial made national headlines when she called for the resignation of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt for placing the blame of MMIW on Indigenous men. Valcourt’s statement was then backed by a report released by the RCMP that was met with much controversy when it appeared to link violence against Indigenous women to their male counterparts.

“I don’t buy that,” said Martial. “That 70 percent is still not accurate.”

Martial then called for an independent investigator to review the RCMP’s data in April.

She is still pressing for it to happen.

Even though she will no longer be a grand chief she will continue to use her voice working as chief of her home community, Cold Lake First Nation

“When I start something I don’t quit. I will advocate for them (MMIW) no matter how long it takes,” she said.

Martial has been in leadership on and off for almost three decades, first as a councillor and then elected chief of Cold Lake in 2013.

Last fall, she was surprised to learn Treaty 6 Chiefs had chosen her to lead the organization.

“I showed up for a meeting and a chief told me to take the position,” she said. “I felt so good, I just felt like doing a victory dance. I hope it leads to other women to be in this position in the future.”

She encourages more women to seek leadership roles and said women are natural nurturers who bring a needed aspect to the table of the usually male dominated setting. She added that being a chief is something that takes a lot of hard work, patience and tolerance.

But the other male chiefs have treated her well and gave her an equal voice, she said.

Going forward Martial will also be focusing on bettering her community.

“My vision is, there’s always a better tomorrow. There’s so much opportunities left and I think about the children yet to come,” she said.

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