The Assembly of First Nations meeting on Tuesday was "a recipe for conflict and disagreement," according to a chief from northwestern Ontario.
The meeting was Sara Mainville's first AFN gathering since being elected as chief at Couchiching First Nation.
Mainville, who is also a lawyer, said she was concerned by the lack of formal procedures during discussions on the First Nations Control of Education Act.
"Processes bring fairness and equality," Mainville said.
'We have a treaty...we're firm on that'
After hours of "acrimonious" discussions, chiefs voted to reject the controversial bill.
Mainville said it was fortunate that some of the people at the meeting remembered the original intent of the AFN when it was formed in 1982.
"That's when we all had self-government on our minds," she said.
Since then some First Nations in British Columbia and Nova Scotia have found ways to get out from under the Indian Act, Mainville said.
But that has come with a price in terms of their sovereignty, she added.
Couchiching is still "firmly inside the the Indian Act," and looking for a more "wholesale" way to change that, the chief said.
"We have a treaty. We don't want to go in the direction of accepting contingent authority over our lives," Mainville said. "We're firm on that."