New chief elected to Brokenhead Ojibway Nation in Manitoba calls it the ‘biggest honour’ of his life

Members of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation in Manitoba elected Gordon Bluesky as the newest chief of the First Nation on Monday.

Bluesky has spent much of his working life advocating for First Nations, first working in treaty land entitlements and with Treaty One Nation, but has wanted to be chief for decades.

“Twenty-seven years ago I said, I’m going to be chief here one day. And you know what? Last night I became chief of the community,” he said. 

With five opponents vying for the top spot, Bluesky garnered nearly half the votes. Forty-one per cent of the 478 ballots were marked in his favour.

“It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I know that sounds crazy, but for someone that’s been through what I’ve been through in this life, it’s like the biggest honour that I could ever get by going back to represent my nation, my community.”

Bluesky spent his formative years estranged from the First Nation located about 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

As a Sixties Scoop survivor, he was taken from his family as a child and grew up in the U.S., where he knew little about his culture.

“I knew I was Native American. That’s what they call you down there, but anything that I did know was via television,” he said.

Bluesky was able to reconnect with family later in life when his mother was able to get in contact with him. When he was an adult, he finally visited Brokenhead and met family for the first time.

“It’s not even so much meeting your mother, but it’s not even understanding that you had siblings that were born and living on earth that you never even met before. That’s it’s a lot to take in. It still gets me choked up, even to this day,” he said.

Now, Bluesky hopes to make his community’s goals his own.

“There’s a lot of priorities that the community put in front of me. So I’ve got to isolate and flush out those priorities, prioritize them with the membership, and then I’ll have a clear mandate as to what I’m going to do into the future,” he said.

Former Chief Deborah Smith ran for a council seat at Brokenhead Ojibway Nation but lost. (Submitted by Deborah Smith/Brokenhead Ojibway Nation)

Bluesky is stepping into the place that former Chief Deborah Smith held since 2018.

She ran to be a band councillor, but lost to Allen Hocaluk, Christopher Kent, Remi Olson and Wendell Sinclair Jr.

CBC News has reached out to Smith for comment, but didn’t immediately receive a response.

She has pointed out in social media posts that she was the only woman running in the community election.

“I am saddened that more women have not put their name forward to lead our nation as it really makes a statement when women are not being considered for leadership roles within our community. The absence of women in leadership decisions is contrary to the traditional governance structures of our people,” she wrote in a March Facebook post.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs congratulated Bluesky for his win and said in a news release that it looks forward to “working together for the success of [Brokenhead Ojiibway] Nation.”

“We also extend a heartfelt miigwech to Chief Deborah Smith for your many years of service. We wish you much success going forward.”