Harper now Prime Minister Chief Speaker
STAND OFF, Alta. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now known as Chief Speaker in the eyes of the Blood Tribe people.
Harper became an honorary chief of the Blood Tribe in a special ceremony Monday that inducted him into the Kainai Chieftainship on the reserve about 200 km south of Calgary.
The prestigious honour is seen as a bridge between native and non-native communities, and recognizes people who have made an impact on the first nation, Chief Charles Weasel Head said.
"It was created to acknowledge persons who have contributed significantly to the well-being of the Blood Tribe," he said.
The Blood Tribe chose to recognize Harper as an honorary chief after being touched by the apology he gave three years ago on behalf of the Canadian government for its role in the residential school system, he said.
"Our view has always been forward thinking rather than dwelling on the (negativity) of the past," Weasel Head said, adding he looks forward to a new era that builds relationships for the future.
During the ceremony, elders gave Harper the name Chief Speaker and dressed him in face paint and a traditional headdress before presenting him with the Kainai Chieftainship Scroll.
Harper said it was "a great privilege" to receive the rare honour.
"I am particularly proud of this honour, given it recognizes the efforts that our government has been taking to help preserve the rich culture and heritage of First Nations in Canada while also investing in the future of Aboriginal peoples," he said.
"My family and I are deeply grateful for this gift and I will carry my Blood name, Chief Speaker, with great joy and pride."
The honour comes about a week after the feds took a step closer to approving a self-government agreement with the Blood Tribe.
The Kainai Chieftainship membership is limited to 40 living people.
Past recipients include Prince Charles, Pope John Paul II, author Pierre Berton and former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
Clarence Blackwater said Harper makes a good chief.
"He's got the experience - he is a good leader," he said.
He said the honour, which he remembers seeing Prince Charles receive in the 1970s, is a significant symbol.
"It's the concept of a relationship with a first nation," he said.
"This is historical."