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Assembly of First Nations

Assembly of First Nations
File:Assembly of First Nations (emblem).png
AFN Logo
Abbreviation AFN
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Headquarters Ottawa, Ontario
Region served
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Official language
English, French
National Chief
Perry Bellegarde
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Formerly called
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The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) emerged from and replaced the Canadian National Indian Brotherhood and is an assembly of First Nations represented by their chiefs. The aims of the organization are to protect and advance the aboriginal and treaty rights and interests of First Nations in Canada, including health, education, culture and language.[1]


The self-formation of political organizations of indigenous peoples of North America has been a constant process over many centuries—the Iroquois Confederacy and the Blackfoot Confederacy are two prominent pre-colonial examples. Other groups formed to enter into Treaties with colonial governments.

The Grand Indian Council of Ontario and Quebec was established in 1870 composed primarily of Ojibway and Iroquois. In 1915, the "Allied Tribes of B.C." was formed by Peter Kelly and Andrew Paull to seek treaties and adequate-size reserves.

After the First World War, the League of Indians in Canada was founded by a Mohawk veteran, Fred Ogilvie Loft (1862-1934). It became the antecedent of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Indian Association of Alberta.

In 1926, the Indian Defense League of America was formed by Chief Clinton Rickard of the Tuscarora Nation, with heavy involvement in US-Canadian border crossing problems faced by "Indians" in both countries. Rickard organized an annual celebration to assert border crossing rights, Indian rights generally, and respect for the value and dignity of indigenous culture.

A split took place in the League of Indians in 1938, and in 1939 the Indian Association of Alberta was formed. After the Second World War, the other faction formed “The Protective Association for Indians and Their Treaties” to advocate for native title and recognition of rights over traditional territories and resources.

In 1946, after the Second World War, the Union of Saskatchewan Indians emerged from the Protective Association and a newly founded “Association of Saskatchewan Indians.”

In 1948, The North American Indian Brotherhood is founded by Andy Paull as a national lobby group which urged extension of voting rights without loss of Indian rights, removal of liquor offenses as a way of ending most of the criminal charges faced by Indian people, and advocating pensions and welfare for Indians on the same level as the Canadian population.

In 1956, the Union of Saskatchewan Indians transformed itself into the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians. In 1965, the Federation was incorporated by Walter Deiter, Henry Langan, Max Goodwill, Hilliard McNabb and Lucien Bruce. Its objective was to protect Indian Treaties and Treaty Rights; to promote the welfare of the Indians of Saskatchewan, to foster progress in the economic development, education and social life of Indians; and to cooperate with civil and religious authorities in matters pertaining to Indian interests.

With the 1969 White Paper, George Manuel led the formation of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to oppose the new proposed policy.

In 1970, George Manuel, Noel Doucette, Andrew Delisle, Omer Peters, Jack Sark, Dave Courchene, Roy Sam, Harold Sappier, Dave Ahenakew, Harold Cardinal and Roy Daniels incorporated the National Indian Brotherhood.

A Report of the federal "Interdepartmental Committee on Indian and Eskimo Policy" in July 1971 formed the basis for the Secretary of State Core Funding program for native organizations approved by Cabinet. The government envisaged a neat package of three national aboriginal associations and one regional association per province or territory for each. An adjustment was made in the case of Ontario where Indians had already organized four associations on tribal and treaty lines. The objective was to assist groups “to communicate their needs and views effectively to all levels of government, to participate in the political, social and economic institutions of Canadian society, and to contribute to the development of aboriginal leadership.”

The evolution of organizations of aboriginal peoples soon rendered these criteria increasingly inapplicable. In B.C., the Native Brotherhood had always represented both status and non-status Indians and the United Native Nations (established following the demise of the BC Assn. of Non-Status Indians) had aggressively asserted the same principle. Similarly, some of the B.C. tribal councils as well as Council of Yukon Indians (CYI) and the Dene Nation rejected in principle the distinction between status and non-status Indians. This has led to a situation in which the then vice-president of the Native Council of Canada (for non-status people) was a status Indian, while the president of the CYI and the vice-president of the Dene Nation were "non-status Indians" at this time.

In July 1971, the "First National Native Women’s Conference" took place.

National Indian Brotherhood

The National Indian Council was created in 1961 to represent indigenous people of Canada, including treaty/status Indians, non-status Indians, the Métis people, though not the Inuit.[2] This organization, however, collapsed in 1967 as the three groups failed to act as one, so the non-status and Métis groups formed the Native Council of Canada and the treaty/status groups formed the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB), an umbrella group for provincial and territorial organizations.[3][4] The NIB was a national political body made up of the leadership of the various provincial and territorial organizations (PTOs) which lobbied for changes to federal and provincial policies.[5]

The following year, the NIB launched its first major campaign in opposition to the 1969 White Paper, in which the Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien, proposed the abolition of the Indian Act, the rejection of land claims, and the assimilation of First Nations people into the Canadian population with the status of other ethnic minorities rather than a distinct group.

Supported by a churches, labour and other citizen groups, the NIB mounted massive opposition to the government plan. On June 3, 1970, the NIB presented the response by Harold Cardinal and the Indian Chiefs of Alberta (entitled "Citizens Plus" but commonly known as the "Red Paper") to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and ministers of his Cabinet. Startled by the strong opposition to the White Paper, the Prime Minister told the delegation the White Paper would not be imposed against their will.

In 1972, the NIB's policy paper "Indian Control of Indian Education" was generally accepted by federal government and the NIB gained national recognition for the issue of indigenous education in Canada. Undoubtedly, this was one of the last steps in ending the Canadian Residential School System, long opposed by indigenous people, but also a first step in the push for indigenous self-governance.[2][6]

In 1973, the Calder case decision was issued.[7] "You have more rights than I thought you did," Prime Minister Trudeau told the NIB leaders.

The NIB gained consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1974, until such time as an international indigenous organization could be formed. When the World Council of Indigenous Peoples was formed on Nuu-chah-nulth territory the following year with the leadership of George Manuel, it took the place of the NIB at the United Nations.

However, the NIB was not without its problems. Individual chiefs and regional groupings begin to chafe because their only access to the national scene was through their respective PTOs. The chiefs complained they were not being heard.

In 1978, in an effort to let the chiefs be heard, NIB President Noel Starblanket organized an "All Chiefs Conference" on "Indian Self-Government". The Chiefs were delighted with the opportunity, and at a second All Chief Conference, announced that hereafter, the All Chief Conference would be "the one and only voice of Indian people in Canada."

This move coincided with the Prime Minister's announcement that Canada would patriate its constitution. The question arose as to what would happen with the Treaty and aboriginal rights that had been guaranteed by the Imperial Crown if Canada took over its own governance. Strong national leadership from the Chiefs became essential. The Chiefs formalized their governance structure, compromised by incorporating a "Confederacy" composed largely of the NIB leadership, and made the NIB, an incorporated body, its administrative secretariat. They used the United Nations General Assembly as a model in conceiving what the new "Assembly of First Nations would become.

The Chiefs held their first assembly as "the Assembly of First Nations" in Penticton, British Columbia, in April 1982. The new structure was formally adopted in July 1985, as part of the Charter of the Assembly of First Nations.

Assembly of First Nations

On September 1, 1994, Ovide Mercredi, Chief of the AFN advised federal government leaders that it must guarantee the rights of Aboriginal people in Quebec in the event of disunion.[5]

In early 2013, documents revealed that the AFN had been operating in conjunction with the RCMP to provide information and conduct surveillance on members of the First Nations community. Documents acquired through access to information requests, reveal that heads of the RCMP, and the Ontario and Quebec provincial police met in the summer of 2007 with then AFN national chief Phil Fontaine to “facilitate a consistent and effective approach to managing Aboriginal protests and occupations.”

The AFN, which depends upon the federal government for most of its funding, has sometimes been accused of being obsequious, and not representative of the larger First Nations community.

Principal organs

  • National Chief
  • First Nations-in-Assembly
  • The Executive Committee
  • Secretariat
  • Council of Elders

Presidents of the National Indian Brotherhood

Presidents of the Assembly of First Nations

See also


  1. ^ "Consolidated Statement of Revenue and Expenses" (PDF). AFN Executive Committee Reports. 
  2. ^ a b Assembly of First Nations – The Story
  3. ^ McFarlane, Peter (1993). Brotherhood to nationhood : George Manuel and the making of the modern Indian movement. Toronto: Between the Lines. ISBN 0921284667. 
  4. ^ "First Nations Bill C-44" (PDF). The Assembly of First Nations. 
  5. ^ a b Pound, Richard W. (2005). <span />'Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'<span />. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  6. ^ A Brief History of the Education of First Nations Children: What Should They Learn and How Should They Learn it?, Iram Khan
  7. ^ With an ear to the ground: The CCF/NDP and aboriginal policy in Canada, 1926–1993 Journal of Canadian Studies, Spring 1999 by Frank James Tester, Paule McNicoll, Jessie Forsyth
  8. ^ "Quebec regional Chief Picard takes interim AFN helm". APTN National News, July 16, 2014.

External links