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First Nations Governance Basics

First Nations Governance BasicsPhoto from Unsplash

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Conducting efficient and productive meetings is crucial for decision-making that reflects the community’s best interests. In this blog, I will briefly discuss First Nation Governance and enhancing Chief and Council meeting efficiency.

What Is First Nations Governance?

First Nations governance refers to the systems and processes through which Indigenous communities manage internal affairs and make decisions affecting their people. Rooted in the rich history and diverse cultural traditions of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, these governance structures vary widely among different First Nations groups, reflecting their unique customs, languages, and identities.

Historically, many of these systems were often based on consensus and guided by elders and traditional leaders. Today, while First Nations governance frequently operates within the framework established by the Indian Act, many communities are trying to move towards self-governance agreements that allow greater autonomy from federal control.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Chief and Other Members

The roles and responsibilities of key figures like the Chief, Councillors, and Executive Director are distinct yet interconnected, each playing a vital part in the governance and administration of their communities:

  • Chief: The Chief is often the highest-ranking official and the face of the First Nation. Their primary role is to provide leadership and represent the interests of their community. The Chief is also responsible for leading the Chief and Council, setting agendas, and making executive decisions.
  • Council: Council members are typically elected by the members of the First Nation. They’re responsible for making policy decisions, by-laws, and regulations for the community. They also play a crucial role in community planning and development, financial management, and maintaining cultural practices.
  • Executive Director: The Executive Director is the only employee that directly responds to the Chief and Council. Their duties include implementing the policies and decisions made by the Chief and Council, managing staff, overseeing projects and programs, handling financial administration, and ensuring efficient service delivery to the community members. They act as a bridge between the Chief and Council and the administrative functions of the First Nation.

Each of these roles contributes to the overall governance structure of First Nations, blending traditional Indigenous governance practices with modern administrative systems. The effective functioning of these roles is crucial for the autonomy, prosperity, and cultural preservation of First Nations communities.

How to Run an Efficient Chief and Council Meeting

Running an efficient Chief and Council meeting requires careful planning, clear objectives, and active participation.

A well-defined agenda, with a clear start time, should be prepared and distributed in advance, outlining the topics to be discussed with specific time allocations. This allows participants to prepare adequately and ensures meetings stay focused and on track.

The Chief, typically acting as the chair, should facilitate the meeting, guiding discussions while ensuring that all Council members can voice their opinions. Establishing and adhering to meeting protocols, like speaking order and time limits for discussions, is crucial to maintaining order and respect among participants.

Assigning someone to take minutes is crucial for transparency and record-keeping purposes. At the end of the meeting, a summary of the decisions made and the necessary actions to be taken should be provided, with clear assignments of responsibilities.

Regular reviews of the meeting process can also help enhance its efficiency. Effective communication, respect for diverse viewpoints, and a commitment to action all help make these meetings productive tools for community development and governance.

Learn More about First Nation Governance

As mentioned above, this blog is only a brief overview on First Nation governance. To learn more about First Nation governance, you can register your Chief and Council for our First Nation governance training. This training is available either in person or online through Zoom or Microsoft Teams. We suggest that this training should be taken after each election, to help new members of Chief and Council and refresh returning members’ knowledge. To get further information about our First Nation governance training call us at (705) 268-6492 or email us at

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