Women candidates in upcoming Kainai Nation election hope to change history

Lee Anne (Healy) Johnson was planning to run for a council seat on Kainai Nation's band council, at least until nomination day on Nov. 5. 

Roughly 30 per cent of candidates campaigning for the 12-seat band council are women

Lee Anne (Healy) Johnson is the only woman running for chief of Kainai First Nation. (Submitted by Lee Anne (Healy) Johnson)

Lee Anne (Healy) Johnson was planning to run for a council seat on Kainai Nation's band council, at least until nomination day on Nov. 5. 

"When I saw that there was no one or heard that there was no one running for chief, a woman, I decided that day, the day of nominations that I would," Johnson said. 

Johnson is campaigning against seven men for Blood Tribe chief.

Twenty-nine out of 88 candidates campaigning to be part of the 12-seat band council are women.

4 women currently sit on council

There are currently four women on council — not enough, according to candidate Shannon Wells.

"I want to see half of those seats represented by women at least, if not more. We have diverse experiences, perspectives and I don't believe those priorities are properly represented with our current representation on council,"  Wells said. 

Rita Calf wants to see at least half of the seats filled by women as well, that's why she's running.

Calf, 66, said she has run twice before and has heard many times from community members who believe women do not belong in politics.

"I disagree — I think we have more compassion toward situations, not to say that you're going to hear a 'yes person,' but I know women hold the family together," Calf said.

Shannon Wells is one of 29 women vying for a seat on the 12-seat band council. (Submitted by Shannon Wells)

This time around, the climate is changing toward women in politics, partly thanks to the recent American election of Kamala Harris, the first woman and woman of colour to be elected to the vice presidency.

Shannon Wells said Harris' win made a huge impact on her. 

"We may be in Canada, but we're deeply influenced by the goings-on in the U.S., just south of the border, and definitely a woman of colour — that's something to be celebrated. I see her as a champion. This is definitely a huge win for us." 

Time to make change

Rebecca Many Grey Horses, a member of the First Nation, recently organized a virtual forum supporting the female candidates.  

Many Grey Horses said the forum was about empowering them and reminding them there are role models within their own community. 

"We have our grandmothers, our ancestors who were very strong leaders and I believe that our women can be those strong leaders again," Many Grey Horses said. 

Lee Anne (Healy) Johnson said what it comes down to, in this Nov. 26 election, is sisterhood.

"I think the women, they're the ones advocating for their families and I feel like they've experienced the same things I have and so they're ready to change, they're ready to step up and have their voices heard.

"It's time for us to make a change for our families and our nation."


Terri Trembath

Video Journalist

Terri Trembath is a video journalist who joined CBC Calgary in 2008. You can reach her at