Peau de Chat’s Return


New Chief Elected at FWFN

April 7, 2013

Fort William First Nation, ON: Joseph Peau de Chat has been elected as the new Chief of Fort William First Nation.

Joseph brings with him a wealth of political experience.  A seasoned leader, he is famous for making nation-to-nation agreements with Canada, and for resisting Canada’s co-optation of Anishinaabek governance systems.

Joseph’s appointment was immediately denounced by Canadian representatives.  A Canadian treaty commissioner issued the following statement to the electors: “He owes his election to you, but he is not your chief.  I will not ratify the election.”

To this Joseph replied: “You wish to snatch away my power and give it to another, if you can – that is your purpose.  I tell you that you are usurping our authority.  Neither the queen nor the Government of Canada can ever alter what the Indians have enacted.”[1]

The people of Fort William First Nation elected Joseph within Anishinaabek political systems as a way to move away from the Indian Act.  Under section 82(2) of the Act, Chiefs and Councils are accountable to the federal government, not their communities.  Customary leaders operate outside of Canada’s colonial laws as a way to remain accountable to their own people.

When asked about his priorities as Chief, Peau de Chat said that holding Canada to its obligations under the Robinson-Superior Treaty is at the top of his list, as well as culturally-sensitive economic development and political self-determination.


Contact: Damien Lee

[1] Chief Joseph Peau de Chat, qtd. in Father Frémiot, “Chief Peau de Chat’s Report on His Interrogation by Visiting Indian Agents,” in Thunder Bay District 1821-1892: A Collection of Documents, ed. Elizabeth Arthur (Toronto: The Champlain Society for the Government of Ontario, University of Toronto Press, 1974), 17.  Liberty taken with quotes.

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