Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak not seeking re-election

Manitoba’s top chief will be stepping away from politics.

Nepinak says he does not support running under an Indian Act system

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs will not be seeking re-election. (The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's top chief will be stepping away from politics.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak announced that he will not be seeking re-election when his term ends.

"We need to rebuild our nations as Anishinaabe people as Indigenous people and I think we can do that but it will have to be done from outside the Indian Act," Nepinak said on CBC's Up to Speed Monday afternoon.

Nepinak explained that he did not support running under the Indian Act system.

"I do believe that our traditional forms of governance that are led by our matriarchs across the country are being withheld and denied and in that way we are less than self-determining. We are not self-governing but we are actually playing to the tune of federal governments and the funding they provide through the Indian Act political system," he said.

Nepinak was born in Winnipeg but spent his younger years growing up on the Pine Creek First Nation. He later became the Chief of the Pine Creek First Nation before being elected grand chief in 2011.

Nepinak said he was proud, during his time in leadership, that the AMC moved towards a mandate that was "directed and guided by our community leadership which is informed by our community members."

In a post on Facebook, Nepinak announced his decision saying he will continue to live his life in the service of Indigenous people but he will not "accept any more titles within the colonization system."

"We would think that we would be able to change it from the inside. I carried that hope for many years," Nepinak told CBC News.

"I thought that by working inside I could change it but the truth is that it's a moving floor, within that monster bureaucracy we call Indian Affairs."

Nepinak recently caused controversy with statements over Indigenous hunting rights after two men from the Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful hunting on private property in Saskatchewan.

"The settler community needs to understand the limits of notions of private property in treaty lands," Nepinak said in a press release at the time.

"The concept of private property is limited by Crown obligations ... to not interfere with Indigenous treaty hunters in the carrying-out of their vocation of hunting safely."

Nepinak said oftentimes people think that through politics they are able to stand up and "make bold political statements." However, he added what's happening in the communities' shows that an engagement in politics is not yielding positive outcomes.

"What's happening on the ground is that the quality of life continues to slip for Indigenous people," he said. "We are being arrested by going out on the land and trying to harvest our traditional foods, there is just a whole number of different issues that are really detrimental to the quality of life for our people."

While he still has a few months left as grand chief, Nepinak said he looks forward to spending more time with his family.

"I've got responsibility as a dad just like anybody else," he said. 

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents about 60 First Nations across the province.