Published on July 30, 2014 by Amy
Perry Bellegarde’s career has been marked by an unwavering commitment to be of service to the concerns of First Nations in Canada. Currently, the Chief of the Little Black Bear First Nation, he has also served as the Tribal Chair of the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, the Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), and Regional Vice Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). In addition, he served as Vice President of Labour and Aboriginal Initiatives for the Crown Investments Corporation.
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Chief Bellegarde was raised on Little Black Bear in Saskatchewan with his five brothers by his parents, Yvonne and Charles. Through his family, he learned the values of respect, hard work and the importance of education. A recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, Chief Bellegarde was the first Treaty Indian to graduate from the University of Regina in 1984 with a Bachelor of Administration. Currently, he is completing the Certified Corporate Board Training through The Directors College sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada and McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business.
Guided by the teachings of First Nations Elders and Chiefs, Chief Bellegarde is a strong advocate for inherent and treaty rights. While Tribal Chief of the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, Perry brought together Elders, Chiefs and elected leaders– First Nations and non-First Nations— to restore the original Treaty Four grounds to reserve status in the town of Fort Qu’Appelle. This meant uniting the reserves that are the original signatories to Treaty Four. In a deeply moving ceremony, the grounds were returned to reserve status. He also facilitated the transfer of the Fort Qu’Appelle Indian Hospital to First Nations control, leading the way to a new multi-million dollar hospital, the All Nations Healing Hospital – a healing centre built for First Nations and non-First Nations communities alike. Today Perry serves as spokesperson for Treaty Four regarding unfinished Treaty business.
Chief Bellegarde has been honoured with the bestowing of two headdresses. In 1995, he was presented with his first eagle feather headdress by Chief Brian McNabb. At the ceremony led by Elders Gordon Oakes, James Ironeagle, Willie Piegan, Bill Pratt and Dave Pratt, Perry was given the Cree name, Okemow Peeasew Awasis – King Thunderbird Child. In 1998, following his election as Regional Vice Chief for the AFN, Perry was given his second headdress during a swearing in ceremony with the FSIN Senators. During his tenure, Perry spearheaded the national compensation package for First Nations Veterans and their spouses. Alongside the National First Nations Veterans Association, he fought to help First Nations Veterans get some of the compensation and benefits they deserved but did not receive upon their return to Canada after their military service. As the Chief of the FSIN, Perry negotiated and signed a twenty-five year gaming agreement with the Province of Saskatchewan, which stabilized the gaming industry.
His community service has included serving on the Board of Directors of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), Rancho Ehrlo, the Globe Theatre, and both the Regina and National Chapters of the YMCA, as well as both the Indian Government and Lands and Resources Commissions for the FSIN.
Perry Bellegarde continues to lead and build consensus on resolving issues that benefit First Nations and inspire unity across the country. It is his vow to stay true to the teachings of the Elders. Their guidance has made him a man of foresight and a leader for generations.