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Douglas Todd: Powers of hereditary chiefs test many First Nations – Vancouver Sun

Jan 26, 2023

Opinion: Few things range more widely in Indigenous communities than the roles assigned to hereditary chiefs

“Anishinaabe, Métis, Coastal Salish, Cree, Cherokee. We have nothing much in common. We’re all aboriginal and we have the drum. That’s about it.” — Thomas King, from The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.

When it comes to diversity among Indigenous communities, few things range more widely than the roles assigned to hereditary chiefs.

In some First Nations, hereditary chiefs are given great status, despite being un-elected. They are not only seen as the carriers of traditional knowledge, some Canadian Indigenous communities ask them to go to court in land disputes. On the other hand, in a host of Canada’s 600 Indigenous communities, hereditary chiefs have next to no power. Elected chiefs hold sway.

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