Chief Louis Taypotat shakes hands during an honour ceremony at the assembly. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

Wednesday morning started with a pipe ceremony and grand entry to welcome the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations spring assembly at the Senator Allen Bird gym in Prince Albert.

It was a packed gym with hundreds of people present for opening remarks from people like FSIN Senator Ted Quewezance. He spoke to a lot of controversial topics, including saying FSIN has gatekeepers “who partner with the federal government to limit services and implement the federal agenda, and that has to stop.”

Quewezance said he wants to “get off this administrative agenda and get a treaty-based political agenda for our organization.”

Also at the mic was recently elected NDP MLA Ryan Meili, who received a warm welcome. He said he’s long been interested in social justice, inequalities, and health which led him to work as a doctor with northern communities.

Meili said he is committed to speaking about Indigenous people in legislature, something he said the Sask. Party hasn’t done, adding that the party’s recent “austerity” budget has furthered the social divides between First Nations and the rest of the province.

Also on a special honour ceremony for PAGC Grand Chief Ron Michel, who is retiring before the next election in October, and for Chief Louis Taypotat for his years of service.

Michel had previously announced his retirement, and on Wednesday elaborated the reasons why, that he “had two close calls, in 2000 and 2010 of cancer and heart problems. Today I thank the Lord for getting me through.”

Taypotat looked back at his years as chief, in which he fought and won jurisdiction for the Painted Hand Casino in order to create employment for his people.

He said the push for sovereignty is important, as is supporting each other.

“Ron and I will be around if somebody needs help,” he said.

Later on Wednesday there’s a dense agenda including resolutions for a chief political task force on child welfare and suicide prevention strategy.