Born at the Fort Qu’Appelle Indian Hospital on August 29, 1962, Perry Bellegarde is a member of the Little Black Bear First Nation. He attended elementary school in Goodeve, and following graduation from the Balcarres high school (1980) attended the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now First Nations University of Canada). In 1984 he became the first First Nations person to earn a Bachelor of Administration degree from the University of Regina, after which he became director of personnel for the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (1984–86). From 1986 to 1988, Bellegarde was vice-president/assistant tribal council representative for the Touchwood–File Hills– Qu’Appelle (TFHQ) Tribal Council; and from 1988 to 1998 he was president/tribal council representative. As president, Bellegarde was instrumental in negotiating a transfer agreement for the federally operated Fort Qu’Appelle Indian Hospital to First Nation-owned-and-operated status; he initiated and implemented the First Nation urban service delivery centre which continues to operate in Regina today; and with the guidance and assistance of Elders he aided in regaining the original grounds of Treaty 4 to First Nations control as reserve land.

In May 1998, Bellegarde became the ninth Grand Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), a position that carries with it the seat of vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Perry Bellegarde is the third member of his family to be elected to this position. Grand Chief Bellegarde supported First Nations veterans in their struggle for compensation for post-war injustices, aiding them in receiving a compensation package in 2003. He signed a 25-year gaming agreement with the government; advanced outstanding issues regarding the 1930 Natural Resource Transfer Agreement; worked in areas of inherent and treaty rights; was a strong advocate for the advancement of women; made presentations on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the United Nations; and was involved in the International Study of Treaties. Throughout his years in the political system, Bellegarde persistently pursued his vision of equal opportunity and participation in all sectors for the First Nations people of Saskatchewan. It is his firmly held belief that the treaties were meant to ensure that all people could live in “mutual respect and peaceful co-existence.”

Charlene Crevier