Kyra Wilson becomes Long Plain First Nation's 1st female chief in decades

Long Plain First Nation has elected its first female chief since the 1970s, only the second woman to hold the community's top leadership role.

Therapist, former social worker says she's honoured by community support

Formal portrait of a woman.
Kyra Wilson, 35, is the new chief of Long Plain First Nation. (Submitted by Kyra Wilson)

Long Plain First Nation has elected its first female chief since the 1970s, only the second woman to hold the community's top leadership role.

Kyra Wilson, 35, secured the most votes in the community's general election on April 14, according to unofficial results posted online Saturday. Official tallies are expected to be released next week.

Wilson, a therapist and former social worker, says she's honoured and overwhelmed by the support she got from people in the community, about 95 kilometres west of Winnipeg, for her leadership bid.

Throughout the election process, Wilson says, she was focused on the future but never lost sight of the past — including the trail paved by Marlene Peters, the only woman previously elected as chief of Long Plain.

"I'm just so happy and so grateful for her and the work that she did," Wilson said.

And with an 11-year-old daughter at home, being elected to the role brings a new meaning.

"It makes me feel really emotional to think that I'm able to not only inspire my daughter, but to inspire a lot of young people," she said.

"There's always that opportunity for them to be a part of that leadership, and they just need to be given that mentorship like I was given. And so that's how I see my role, is lifting up our youth and inspiring them to feel hopeful."

That mentorship included guidance from outgoing Long Plain chief Dennis Meeches, who nominated Wilson to run after he announced last winter he would not seek re-election after serving for two decades.

Mother is her biggest supporter

Perhaps Wilson's biggest supporter was her mother, Dianne Roulette, who is Ojibway from Long Plain and on Saturday "one very proud mom."

"I've always told my daughter that I would support her 100 per cent in whatever she wanted to do, whatever she wanted to be, in anything — that I would always be her No. 1 fan and her No. 1 supporter," Roulette said. 

"And I will, as long as I have air in my lungs and as long as my heart is beating, I will always be here for her."

Wilson, who ran in Manitoba's 2016 provincial election, has long been around politics, growing up with a father who is a Cree-Métis politician based in Saskatchewan.

She says she hopes to use her new role to improve services in her home community, including education, health care and other critical services.

Meeting with new council

But first, she's looking forward to meeting with the First Nation's incoming council members and connecting with people in the community.

"There are going to be so many different areas that we need to work on, but we'll just be taking it one day at a time and making sure that we're addressing every need from every band member," she said on Saturday.

"At the end of the day, we're from the same community and I will work hard for every single person. It doesn't matter ... who you supported. What matters is that we are taking care of each other, and I will do my best to advocate and work hard for every single person."

Wilson was among seven candidates, including two other women, running for chief. David Meeches came in second, while Marcia Assiniboine placed third, according to the unofficial results.

Allen Dennis Myran, Keely Assiniboine, Marvin Daniels and Garnet Meeches were elected to council.