Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin T. Hart, Assembly of First Nations, Canada.

Kevin T. Hart: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series

Dennis Zotigh

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.

My name is Kevin T. Hart. I am the Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations of Canada.

What First Nation are you affiliated with?

The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Treaty 5. I grew up on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. I presently reside on my wife’s community, the Sagkeeng First Nation, which is a signatory to Treaty 1.

What is a significant point in history from your First Nation that you would like to share?

The vision of the elders from the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation to move the community to a higher ground. The elders foresaw that the flood Manitoba Hydro did to the northern region in the 1960s would completely devastate the lands of my people.

How is your provincial government set up?

The provincial government is set up like the Iroquois Confederacy. All of the Canadian legislatures and the parliament are built upon the same government system.

How are ministers chosen?

Ministers are chosen by their leaders provincially and federally.

Is there a political party that is more dominant than others in your province? Do legislators vote along party lines?

The NPD (New Democratic Party) is dominant in the province. The Liberal Party is the dominant party federally. Historically, Native people have been loyal to the NDP, but there are other Native candidates running as members of the other political parties.

Are there other Natives who are elected leaders in your province?

Yes, there are a number of elected leaders in the province: Grand Chief Derek Nepinak for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Terrance Nelson; Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North–Wilson; Amanda Lathlin, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for The Pas; Kevin Chief, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Point Douglas; Brian Bowman, Mayor of Winnipeg; Deputy Premier of Manitoba and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs the Honorable Eric Robison; and Robert Falcon-Ouellette, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre.

Do the Native people in Manitoba vote in provincial elections?

Yes and no. Some of the people practice their sovereignty. In the most recent federal election, however, the vote in First Nations northern communities increased by 40 percent from the previous election in 2011. The Rock the Vote movement successfully mobilized First Nations people in northern Manitoba to come out and vote. Through public education, identification seminars, and social media, First Nations came out to vote in record numbers.

How often does your ministry meet?

The Assembly of First Nations executive committee meets quarterly, and its members are in dialogue on a daily basis. There are 634 First Nations communities across Canada that the Assembly of First Nation works with in different regions. The elected leaders of the provincial Assembly of First Nations have responsibility for their regions as well as national responsibility for specific portfolios.

What responsibilities do you have as a provincial minister?

The portfolios that I am responsible for nationally are Water; Infrastructure; Housing; Social, Child, and Family Services; Indian Gaming; Food Security; and Alternative Energy.

To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.

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