Woodland Cree women leaders make history in Saskatchewan

Three women leaders say the language spoken at their meetings will be Woodland Cree.

Karen Bird who is a member of the Southend Cree Nation was elected chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation this week. The membership is approximately 11,000 on and off reserve and is located about 140 km northeast of Saskatoon.

“I am very humbled, first of all, to be the first woman in my community of Southend Reindeer Lake, my home community, to be the first chief here,” says Bird.

Leadership runs in her family.

“My great grandfather Arthur Morin was a chief also. I come from a line of leadership and as a young girl I always admired that kind of work,” she says.

Bird now joins her good friend Chief Joyce McLeod of Montreal Lake Cree Nation and Chief Tammy Cook-Searson as Woodland Cree female chiefs in northern Saskatchewan.

Chief says the trio have a lot in common including their love for the land and their culture.

“All three of us are hunters we’re trappers and we are fishermen all three of us because we come from because that’s the background how we were raised and we are so connected to our culture connected with our language.”

McLeod adds “It’s the women who are going to heal our nations.”

Cook-Searson says they all speak Woodland Cree fluently with the dialect. Cook-Searson says she’s looking forward to the work the three of them can do together as leaders.

“I am really proud of Chief Karen bird who just got elected with Peter Ballantyne and I actually just talked to her a little while ago to congratulate her and I also spoke to Chief Joyce Naytowhow McLeod just talking about business with FSIN. I am looking forward to working with them,” she says.

Bird says they will be having meetings speaking Woodland Cree.

“I love to speak my language when I can and now that I can speak to Tammy chief Tammy is fluent and she’s very involved in her traditional roots and so am I and so is Joyce.”

Bird adds that the membership chose her and she will make them proud.

“It’s a great day in our woodland Cree nation you know to celebrate we made history.”

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