Perry Bellegarde is a highly respected Canadian First Nations advocate, who has dedicated his career to passionately advocating for the rights of Indigenous people. He served as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations from December 2014- July 2021, in addition to being chief of Little Black Bear and Federation Saskatchewan Indian Nation assemblies.
Perry Bellegarde was born in Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada on August 29, 1962. He was raised on the Little Black Bear reserve and attended elementary and secondary schools in the local towns of Goodeve and Balcarres.
After high school, he then attended the Saskatchewan Federated Indian College, now known as the First Nations University of Canada. He later received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Indian studies from the University of Regina.
Perry Bellegarde began his political career as chief of the Little Black Bear First Nation, a position he held for 10 years. He then served as chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the organization that represents the interests of First Nations people in Saskatchewan. In 2014, he was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
As National Chief, Bellegarde has been a vocal advocate for the rights and interests of First Nations people in Canada. He has pushed for greater self-determination and economic development for First Nations communities, as well as for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Bellegarde has also been active in promoting the use of indigenous languages and culture and has been a vocal advocate for the protection of indigenous rights and titles.
In 1986, Beverly Bellegarde began a journey towards tribal politics that led to his election in 1988 as President of the Touchwood–File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council. His successful initiatives included transferring management of Fort Qu’Appelle Indian Hospital over to First Nations control and establishing an urban service delivery centre for indigenous peoples based in Regina.
Bellegarde’s standout work as a First Nations leader has earned him several coveted honors, including the Canada 125 Medal, Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, Queen’s Golden, and Diamond Jubilee Medals – culminating in his 2018 acknowledgment with the distinguished highest honor from his home province of Saskatchewan; The Order Of Merit.
In 1998, Bellegarde was appointed Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and consecutively became a regional vice-chair in the Assembly of First Nations. He held this role until 2003 before being reelected for another term in 2012. To support indigenous advocacy efforts, he endorsed Neil Young’s Honour The Treaties concert tour to raise funds for Athabasca Chipewyan Nation’s legal challenge against exploitation within oil sands development in 2014.
After Shawn Atleo’s resignation from the National Chief position for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in 2014, a leadership election was held. Bellegarde, an experienced candidate with ties to Canada’s Indigenous population ran and won on the first ballot. He sought federal government support for initiatives such as establishing a judicial inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women due to recent activism surrounding this issue during the 2010s.
As one result, Prime Minister Trudeau committed resources towards creating The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry – an important milestone under his term that speaks volumes about Bellegarde’s commitment to implementing meaningful change through progressive action.
In 2017, Bellegarde became the first ever National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations to take part in Toronto Pride Parade alongside Justin Trudeau. 2018 saw him receive another term as leader after a successful re-election campaign focused on his call for Indigenous nations to embrace their own citizenship laws over those established by Canadian legislation.
In 2019, Bellegarde spearheaded a historic agreement between the Canadian government and First Nations whereby Bill C-92 was passed. This bill sought to address an ongoing issue of indigenous children being taken away from their tribal communities by social welfare authorities and placed into foster care with families outside local societies – resulting in alienation from family, clans, and cultures. By transferring jurisdiction over child welfare matters to Indigenous governments, this act demonstrated collaboration among federal and provincial entities for the benefit of Native Americans across Canada.
In the face of rising tension around pipeline and railway protests in Canada, he spoke out to advocate for protesters’ rights – advocating de-escalation rather than criminalization. His voice joined with prominent Indigenous leaders when lobbying government officials to implement UNDRIP into Canadian law.
In March 2020, he along with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council leaders met with the federal prime minister and the provincial premiers to lobby for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law.
On March 24th, 2020, Assembly of First Nations Chief Bellegrade declared a state of emergency for Indigenous communities in Canada as the COVID-19 pandemic posed an unprecedented threat. He also highlighted the importance of having direct Indigenous participation during times like these to ensure comprehensive solutions and safeguards are met.
In June 2020, a call to action was answered when he urged for a complete restructuring of policing in Canada. His demands included the shift towards community-based law enforcement which would be enabled by zero-tolerance policies for excessive force and oversight from civilians; this response came following multiple fatalities related to Indigenous people at the hands of police.
Perry Bellegarde has an estimated net worth of $1.51 million.
Perry Bellegarde has been widely recognized for his leadership and contributions to the First Nations community in Canada. He has been named to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors.
In 2019, Perry Bellegarde was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in Canadian Business by the Canadian Business Magazine. He is also the recipient of several other awards and honors, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and the Indspire Lifetime Achievement Award.