North American Indigenous Games council elects its 1st female president

Dale Tamara Plett, who is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Ontario, is the first Indigenous woman to hold the top position in the international sports event.

Dale Tamara Plett of Rama First Nation to lead council to 2020 games in Halifax

Dale Tamara Plett is the first Indigenous woman to be elected president of the North American Indigenous Games. (Dale Tamara Plett )

For Dale Tamara Plett, her election as president of the North American Indigenous Games Council came as a surprise.

Plett, who is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Ontario, is the first Indigenous woman to hold the top position in the international sports event.

"I didn't go into this meeting planning on coming out as NAIG council president at all," said Plett.

She says although the process of the nominations at the annual meeting, held this year on P.E.I., happened quickly, time seemed to stop for her when she was put forward as a candidate.

"There was genuine fear at first, but I felt so really really honoured at the same time," she said.

"There are so many more people at that table that are just remarkable, because every province and territory is represented at that table. I just couldn't believe they chose me."

In March she was appointed director of Engagement, Operations and Policy for the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO). Prior to that she was an ASWCO board member and a recreation director for Rama First Nation.

The North American Indigenous Games council board or directors is made up of 26 regional members, split evenly between Canada and U.S.

The games, first held in 1990 in Edmonton, aim to improve the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples by supporting self-determined sports and cultural activities for Indigenous youth across North America.

Sports have always been a passion for Plett and was how she met her husband, Galen Plett, in college. That love of sports led Galen to coaching and Dale to work on sports councils.

Feels sports important for Indigenous youth

Her introduction to NAIG was in 2014 when her husband coached Ontario's U16 boys basketball team at the games in Regina and she travelled with them.

"My husband and I have made it our life's work with kids, because when they are not doing sports or competing or some something productive, that's when they get into trouble," she said.

"It's just how really important it is to Indigenous youth."

Though her nomination was a surprise to her, her husband said he had no doubts.

Dale Plett and her husband Galen are now passing on the tradition of sports to their own children. (Submitted by Dale Tamara Plett )

"When she first told me someone was interested in nominating her, I knew she was going to get it," he said.

"She's very good at what she does." 

'Very knowledgeable'

Mike Sutherland, a veteran member of the NAIG council, said her resourcefulness and know-how is what influenced him to bring her name forward in the election.

It was her get-it-done attitude that gained the confidence of other NAIG council members, and eventually led to her nomination for presidency. 

"Dale is very knowledgeable when it comes to provincial, federal legislation in regards to sport, recreation, culture and heritage," Sutherland said. 

"A person has to be knowledgeable in that area when it comes to leading an organization like this, because it is through legislation and programming that we define our funding and objectives."  

Plett said she is settling into her role, and looking forward to the 2020 games in Halifax.

"They are not just sport, they are a celebration of our beautiful culture," she said.  

"I invite anyone and everyone to come out and enjoy some great sports."


Penny Smoke


Penny Smoke was born and raised in Saskatchewan. She is of Cree and Saulteax decent from the Treaty 4 area. Penny has worked as a producer with The Afternoon Edition, The Storytelling Project and is currently working with CBC Indigenous. In 2019 Penny was the recipient of the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award, both regionally and nationally.