Chief Delbert Wapass: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series
In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Delbert Peter Wapass. I'm chief of the Thunderchild First Nation (Piyesiw Awasis).
Can you give us your Native name and its English translation?
Kihiw Ka-pim-oo-teht. It means Walking Eagle.
Where is your nation located?
Thunderchild First Nation is located approximately 120 kilometers northwest of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and is in Treaty 6 territory. The closest town is Turtleford, which is 13 kilometers from Thunderchild.
Where was your nation originally from?
Thunderchild First Nation came to be when Chief Piyesiw Awasis’s headmen were forced to sign an adhesion to Treaty 6 in August, 1879, in Sounding Lake, Alberta. Piyesiw Awasis did not put his mark to the treaty document.
The reserve community was originally located in Delmas, Saskatchewan, and the community was forcibly moved to Moosomin First Nation, north of North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The members of Thunderchild did not like where they were forcibly moved to and settled in their present location in 1909.
What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?
In the 1970s in Canada, the document “Indian Control of Indian Education” was developed after 1969 White Paper, "Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy." Thunderchild First Nation was one of the first communities to implement the policies proposed in “Indian Control of Indian Education.” The people of Thunderchild took all of their children from the neighboring provincially controlled schools, such as Turtleford, and moved them back to Thunderchild. The Piyesiw Awasis School was developed and built, and the children of Thunderchild have been at this school since 1971.
What responsibilities do you have as chief?
My overall responsibilities are to ensure that all affairs of the Thunderchild First Nation are met in accordance to strategic direction that we, as a chief and Council, have developed. Ensuring that there is a balance between economic responsibilities and the wellness of the community. Ensuring that financial accountability is met. As a chief, my overall responsibility is making sure that the band is running to its best, while upholding our treaty and inherent rights.
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