Newly-elected First Nations Chief says military helped 'mould' his leadership

Chief Kelly Wolfe says he wouldn't be the leader he is today without the discipline and camaraderie he learned during his 10-month tour in Afghanistan.

Muskeg Cree Nation Chief Kelly Wolfe spent 5 years in Canadian military and tour in Afghanistan

Chief Kelly Wolfe is a veteran of the Afghanistan war. He was sworn in as chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on Feb. 28, 2018. (Omayra Issa/Radio-Canada)

Chief Kelly Wolfe says he wouldn't be the leader he is today without the discipline and camaraderie he learned during his 10-month tour in Afghanistan.

Wolfe was elected chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation earlier this week, winning by more than 100 votes. 

"The leadership qualities and skills developed in the military helped mould me to become a leader in our community. We have a rich history as First Nations serving in the Canadian forces," Wolfe said. 

'You want to serve again'

Wolfe said that after returning from the war, adjusting to civilian life was at times a difficult transition. But he said that his desire to serve and to lead was instilled in him while he was fighting during the war — and that never left. 

"I believe we are starting to pave the way and you know we look forward to other First Nations veterans coming home and taking that responsibility of leadership," he said. 

"Because you know once it's in [you] to serve it never goes away — you want to serve again, just in a different aspect." 

 A group of First Nations veterans were on hand at his swearing-in ceremony on the Saskatchewan reserve this week .

'He's one of ours' 

Steven Ross is the Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association. He says Muskeg Lake has a long history of military service — he even estimates the reserve may have the most First Nations veterans per capita than any other reserve in Canada.

Steven Ross is Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association. He was on hand for the swearing-in ceremony for Chief Kelly Wolfe at Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on Feb. 28, 2018. (CBC)

"A lot of our First Nations people have been involved in World War I, II and Korea, and also Afghanistan wars — it's a good place to train to be a leader and be the kind of people we want to be as our leaders," he said. 

"It's a good feeling because he's one of ours, he's us. Him being a leader, even better yet. It's good for Muskeg, it's good for veterans and I think it's good for society."

Wolfe says his main takeaway from his time spent overseas is a message of peace. He says despite at times seeing combat, it was working with his fellow soldiers and military service people that inspired him. 

"I served with many of my brothers from all over Canada from all different races and all different religions, but we all served under one flag and that was the Canadian flag so being a part of that is something I will always remember," he said.