We Are All Treaty People

Senator Margaret Bear

I am a proud nehiyaw woman from the Ochapowace Nation, Treaty 4 Territory. 

As a lifelong learner, I bring 51 years of grassroots and leadership experience, knowledge, and life’s teachings.  What a blessing it is to have come full circle in life.  I now desire to include in my life’s journey time for self, family and to serve my people in other capacities.  Life is so precious; every breath is a gift.  I embrace every life’s breath with gratitude.  I am thankful for yesterday, grateful for today and hopeful for tomorrow.  My goal in life is to pass on my knowledge and teachings of our elders, past leaders, and ancestors, especially to our young generations to ensure they have an understand of where we come from and where we are going.  This is the role of the kehtea-yak, old people.

Today, I’m most humble and honoured to serve as Senator of my Nation, along with Southeast Treaty 4 Tribal Council and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.  My role as Senator is an advisory and guidance capacity in the areas of inherent and Treaty Rights obligations, Indian government, Indian history, and tradition.  I will continue to support our leadership and people at the community, regional, national, and international levels on matters that affect us. 

In May 2023, I retired from my political role as okimaw iskwew (woman Chief in Cree) of my Nation.  In May 2014, I was elected as Ochapowace Nation’s first okimaw iskwew, a momentous historic achievement.  After many years living away from my community in urban and rural areas, I returned home to contribute to our Nation building, self-determination and community development.  As okimaw iskwew, I served my Nation for a period of three consecutive terms, nine years in total.  Prior to this, I served as Band Councillor for 14 years.  During my tenure in leadership positions, I held many portfolios and mandates, including inherent and Treaty Rights.

As a young girl growing up in the 1950’s, I grew up in an era with no electricity, plumbing and running water in the home.   I lived in a two-story log house in the picturesque Qu’Appelle Valley, surrounded by bush and nearby Qu’Appelle River.   I recall a ‘living off the land’ lifestyle.  While we had the opportunity to play as children, chore responsibilities around the home were paramount to avoiding the hardships in life.  As a young girl, I loved making playhouses in bushes where we lived.  While I found playhouses fun, I gained life skills that would benefit me when I became a mother.  Today, preserved as a historic site, our homestead foundation remains in the middle of an open farm field.  At times, I find myself going to that spot reminiscing my past childhood life experiences. 

My father, Henry Bear, a WW2 veteran, was a hunter and trapper.  My mother, Madeline, was a homemaker.  My parents both attended residential school as I did. 

As a teenager and adult, I experienced urban life for many years.  In 1972, I graduated from Regina’s Balfour Technical High School.  I was immediately employed by the Federal government, Health Canada, Medical Services Branch (now known as First Nations & Inuit Health Branch). My other employers included SIGA and my own Nation.

I began my own family, raising three children, as a single parent.  My eldest daughter, Shauna was deceased in 2021 from cancer and shortly after her passing, I was blessed with a chapan (great-grandchild).  Today, my middle child, Allison is employed with SIIT in Saskatoon and Anthony, my youngest is a RCMP officer in Prince Albert.  Both have their own families and independence.

I look forward to sharing my knowledge an experience as a female leader with the young people in the schools and communities.  It is a way of giving back and at the same time, telling our history and stories as we see it.