Former Pimicikamak Cree Nation chief Cathy Merrick was elected as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs new grand chief on the second ballot Oct. 26.
Merrick received 37 of 59 second-ballot votes to defeat runner-up George Kemp, who got 22 votes.
The AMC’s first female grand chief, Merrick also received the most votes on the first ballot, picking up 17, while Kemp received 13. Candidates needed to receive at least 11 votes to advance to a runoff, and former Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak grand chief Sheila North had the third highest total, with 10, one shy of advancing to the second ballot.
“You should all be proud< “Merrick said after being elected. “I’m the first woman chief for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. I will work hard for our people. I will work hard for our nations to be represented in the assembly.”
The other four candidates — Eugene Eastman, Jennifer Flett, Cora Morgan and Darrell N. Shorting, all received seven votes or less.
30 votes were required to be named grand chief on the second ballot.
“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs congratulates the newly elected Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and we look forward to your advocacy and leadership,” read a press release announcing the results.
The new AMC grand chief was also congratulated by MKO and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.
“As a fellow member of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, I am very proud of your accomplishment today. It is especially significant that you are the first woman to be elected to the position of AMC grand chief,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee in a press release. “I know we will have a strong working relationship, which will benefit the ongoing advocacy that is needed across the entire province.”
The premier said she looked forward to working with Merrick in her new role.
“As grand chief, she will provide great leadership in this important role, advocating on pertinent issues and advancing the priorities of Manitoba First Nations,” Stefanson said in an emailed statement. “Our government is committed to enriching our relationship with the AMC and advancing important reconciliation initiatives through collaboration and partnerships. As the first female premier of Manitoba, I look forward to working together with the first female grand chief of the AMC to take concrete action to advance shared priorities and to implement the fundamental principles that will guide our collective work to create meaningful change and promote truth and reconciliation. I welcome this new chapter and am optimistic and excited about the future of our province and growing the relationship and collaboration between the Manitoba government and the AMC under the leadership of Grand Chief Merrick. Together we will build a safer, healthier and prosperous province for all Manitobans.”
Merrick also received well wishes from current PCN Chief David Monias.
“As the chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, I give thanks to Cathy Merrick for agreeing to take on the role of grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs,” said Chief David Monias. “Cathy, you make us so proud today. I know you will do great things to support and empower First Nations citizens across the province.”
- with files from Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun