Today, Canada Post unveiled a new stamp recognizing Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier, the venerable leader of the Okanese First Nation, on Treaty 4 territory near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. She led her community for 39 years, which is the most consecutive terms ever by an elected First Nations chief in Canada.
“She was an example to us all – not only as women, but as Indigenous women, and as women in leadership roles,” says Mary Culbertson, Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan at the Office of the Treaty Commissioner. “She’s strong. She’s resilient. She thinks of family and community and people first.”
A devoted advocate of social reform, Day Walker-Pelletier was part of the Indigenous delegation that met with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier this year to discuss the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.
“What really stands out in my mind, is her going to Rome and taking the orange moccasins there to the Pope,” says Culbertson. “Because she is a survivor of residential schools. She is a survivor of the abuse that took place there.”
In 1981, Day Walker-Pelletier – who was born in 1954, in Regina, – ran for and took office as Chief of the Okanese First Nation. Initially, she intended to serve a single term. However, the community encouraged her to remain in her position. She ended up serving 15 two-year terms along with three three-year terms. After her last term ended in 2020, she did not seek re-election.
During her time as Chief, Day Walker-Pelletier built a reputation as a matriarch and advocate for her people. She was involved in multiple tribal, provincial and national initiatives related to education, wellness and social reform, and she worked diligently to preserve the culture, language and traditions of her people.
“I want [people] to especially understand her patience, her respect, her understanding and her willingness to face the hard issues and to have the hard conversations,” says Marian Zerr, retired Provincial Deputy Minister, Saskatchewan.
Day Walker-Pelletier was a champion of important issues including violence against women, drug abuse, economic development, housing, health and education. She was particularly passionate about improving the lives of women and children.
Her decade-long dream to reintegrate Indigenous foster children into their families came to life in 2021 – a year after she retired – with the opening of the Daywalker Home Fire Family Centre.
In 2018, Day Walker-Pelletier was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, and she was invested in 2019. Two years later, she received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.
“She is a Chief among Chiefs,” says Zerr. “A wise and sage advisor and someone whom I truly respect.”
The stamp recognizing Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier is part of Canada Post’s new multi-year Indigenous Leaders stamp series. This year, Métis leader Harry Daniels and Inuit leader Jose Kusugak are also being honoured.
Stamp series recognizes three Indigenous LeadersAvailable now