Sheila North, a member of Buniboinibee Cree Nation, was elected Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) in September 2015. She was the first women elected to this position. She is currently seeking election as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. North’s skills lie in understanding the issues facing the people that live in Manitoba, the history of Indigenous peoples, the geography of the land and what can be done that will make a difference.
Like Nellie McClung, North is a gifted writer and communicator. She enjoyed a career as the chief communication officer at Assembly for Manitoba Chiefs, a CBC journalist and CTV correspondent, a radio personality and a Cree translator. She recently co-produced a documentary, “1200+”, exploring MMIWG2S in Canada. She is now at Legacy Bowes as the director of Strategic Partnerships, where she works to enhance capacity within Indigenous communities. She is the mother of two and a grandmother of one.
As Grand Chief, she focused on stabilizing and restoring MKO’s operational capacity as one of the largest, most influential First Nations Political Tribal Organizations in the country, resulting in a significant increase in responsibility and resources for the organization. North leveraged these increased resources to bring a new energy to the MKO, advancing her work in representing the communities of MKO and launching a 10-point MKO Economic Action Plan with the full support and partnership of both provincial and federal governments in 2016. North was able to negotiate an agreement with the federal government for the Clinical Care Transformation that is now the Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc., a northern Manitoba health entity led by First Nations.
Sheila North has been tireless in her work to advocate for the full recognition of Treaty rights and for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action, through regular media appearances and meetings with federal and provincial ministers. She has advocated at the highest levels for increased self-determination for First Nations peoples, including many meetings with the Ministers of Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations, senior federal cabinet ministers and senior provincial ministers. In 2017, she negotiated an agreement with the province of Manitoba over autonomy of First Nations child welfare alongside fellow leaders and had an imposed provincial administration lifted off the Northern Authority. This was groundbreaking.
During her service to MKO, North oversaw the completion of a suicide prevention tour that reached more than 15 remote Northern First Nations. In 2017, she highlighted the urgent need to address the Nation suicide crisis in First Nations communities, speaking to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, while unfortunately experiencing her own family loss of a loved one who passed away from the same tragedy at that time.
Sheila North is a community leader. A Red River College grad, she has been tasked with leading University College of the North’s new Centre for Indigenous Community Development and she is overseeing the establishment of that new centre.