Improving the overall services available in her home community is what Kyra Wilson intends to do if she were to win the position of chief in the Long Plain First Nation election next week.
The 35-year-old is one of three female candidates running for chief in the community’s general election on April 14. There has only been one female chief in the community’s history, and she served in the 1970s.
To be considered for the top leader position in her community, about 95 kilometres west of Winnipeg, is an honour, Wilson says. She was nominated by Chief Dennis Meeches, who announced last winter he would not run again after serving for the past 20 years.
As a mother, therapist and former social worker, Wilson says she recognizes that women often offer a leadership style that is different to men’s.
“As life-givers, we have a different way of approaching things,” she said. “That’s not to say men aren’t great leaders, that’s not what I’m saying at all, [but] I think when you look at women in leadership, it’s just a different way in how we work with the community.
“You’re thinking about your kids, your grandkids — what is that decision going to look like for your family?”
Growing up around politics
Wilson said there’s no reason why members of the community should have to leave it to go to school, visit a doctor or to use critical services that aren’t available on the First Nation — but are in surrounding areas.
“I want to bring every service that we need within Long Plain First Nation and focus on the community as a whole and as a priority,” she said.
Wilson said she is appreciative of all of the work the previous leadership has done on economic development, as it will help secure opportunities for the community to grow.
Though she has not officially been in the political realm, Wilson grew up around politics; her dad is a Cree-Métis politician based in Saskatchewan, while her mother is Ojibway from Long Plain.
Like Wilson, Marcia Assiniboine is also a first-time candidate for chief. She says she feels privileged to be a woman in the running.
“I’m very honoured to be part of the candidacy [and] that I have the support that I have,” she said. “My hopes and dreams are for my community and my members.”
Assiniboine works as a certified engineering technologist. She’s worked on special projects within Long Plain for their emergency services program.
Self-governance for child welfare
One of her goals would be to create a self-governed child welfare system in the community, reflective of Bill C-92, which would give Indigenous communities their own jurisdiction over child and family services.
“That’s an important thing that our children are not left to outside child and family services and them not knowing where they come from,” she said. “Some of them do come home, but they come home and they don’t know where they’re from or who their family is … we need that extra support for them.”
Assiniboine said she also wants to focus on including community members in decision-making for bigger projects that the First Nation is working on.
Wilson and Assiniboine are still on the campaign trail — and both agree their favourite thing about Long Plain is its community members.
“It’s been a beautiful experience,” Wilson said. “I’m just taking it day by day, meeting with as many families as I can.”
The third female candidate, Sharon Daniels, was unavailable for comment.
Four other candidates are running for chief: Stephen Prince, David Meeches, Christopher Yellowquill and Peter Yellowquill.