First Nations chiefs should form united front in talks with feds, leader says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a working meeting with First Nations leaders in...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a working meeting with First Nations leaders in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Handout/PMO/Jason Ransom

Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 2:56 AM ET

A Saskatchewan First Nations leader who ran to lead the Assembly of First Nations has suggested all chiefs need to set politics aside and stay united to get the federal government to recognize treaties and grave reserve poverty.

In 2009, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde lost on the eighth ballot when Shawn Atleo was ultimately elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations after a marathon voting session.

Bellegarde made a deliberate move to stand alongside Atleo, even though the Saskatchewan chief didn't subsequently attend a high-profile Friday meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other aboriginal leaders.

He says all First Nations leaders share a common frustration that is fuelling nationwide demonstrations.

A number of chiefs and grassroots protesters openly hammered Atleo and said he should boycott the Friday meeting with Harper because it didn't involve Gov. Gen. David Johnston and other chiefs who all wanted to be part of discussions.


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