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Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation swears in its 1st female chief and a majority female council

History was made at Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation in Saskatchewan last week as its first-ever female chief was sworn in, along with a six-member council, the majority of whom are women.

The new Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation’s chief and council, back row from left: Kimberley Goodfeather, Dwayne Redman Jr, Brendan Wajunta, Beck Yuzicappi, front row from left: Jean Redman, Chief Roberta Soo-Oyewaste, Minnie Ryder. (Submitted by Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation )

History was made at Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation last week as its first-ever female chief was sworn in, along with a six-member council, the majority of whom are women.

“Let’s get to work, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” were Chief Roberta Soo-Oyewaste’s first words to her new council last Friday.

Soo-Oyewaste, 50, grew up on the Standing Buffalo reserve 11 km west of the neighbouring town of Fort Qu’ Appelle, where she raised her four sons. 

“We are a proud Dakota nation and I am a proud Dakota woman,” Soo-Oyewaste told CBC News.

Soo-Oyewaste ran for chief against three other candidates, one of whom was previous Chief Rodger Redman, who had held the position for nearly two decades.

She defeated Redman by six votes with a total of 188. 

There were 34 candidates running for council. In the end, four women and two men were voted in: Kimberly Goodfeather, Beck Yuzicappi, Jean Redman, Dwayne Redman Jr, Brendan Wajunta and Minnie Ryder.

‘Committed and dedicated’

“We have some really good strong, experienced women and men who all have good heads on their shoulders and have the same vision,” said Soo-Oyewaste. 

“We are all committed and dedicated to the work.” 

Roberta Soo-Oyewaste and her four sons. (Submitted by Roberta Soo-Oyewaste )

Soo-Oyewaste is working on a master’s degree in administration and has previously worked with the federal government, the Assembly of First Nations and in business development. 

Soo-Oyewaste said her knowledge and experience from working in these areas — understanding how federal and provincial governments work and the importance of communication — will benefit her community. 

A sign of change? 

There are at least 14 female chiefs in Saskatchewan and many more in council positions across the province. 

Chief Tanya Aquilar-Antiman was elected in May to lead the Mosquito, Grizzly Bear Head, Lean Man First Nation. Her First Nation’s council is also mostly women.

She said it seems like First Nations want change and voting in female chiefs and councils shows that. 

“This is so exciting to see,” she said.

“I truly believe in the future we will see women taking the leading role and our people supporting the women.” 

Soo-Oyewaste and her council’s first order of business this past week was to ensure that the community’s powwow this weekend is ready for the influx of visitors. 

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