The former Chief of Cowessess First Nation says government jurisdiction and partisan politics were some of the biggest challenges when achieving self-determination of their child welfare.

In 2021, Cowessess was successful in becoming the first First Nation in the country to take over authority of their child welfare from the government.

Cadmus Delorme, chief of the First Nation at the team, was a guest speaker at a week-long Access to Justice event happening at the University of Saskatchewan, where he spoke on Cowessess’s journey to self-determination.

During his address, Delorme laid on the history of Indigenous people and Canada and how that lead him to seek self-determination for child welfare in his community. 

However, Delorme says this pursuit wasn’t without a few challenges.

The biggest challenge through all this was getting two governments to come to the table,” said Delorme.

We had the provincial… and I am going to get a bit partisan here… we had the provincial Sask. Party, and we had the federal Liberals, and us (Cowessess First Nation),” he said.  “I could just sense the lip pointing back and forth once and awhile and every time things would steer that way, I would remind both of them in the room you are both sitting here for the duty of care to Cowessess First Nation, leave your partisan out of this meeting.”

Delorme spoke on one specific fiduciary meeting where things got heated.

I’m always a butterfly in these meetings and I finally had to be a bumble bee and I say ‘listen, Cowessess doesn’t care where this cheque is coming from.  As long as this cheque gets to our canoe we are leaving this meeting until you can figure it out’,” he said.

My lip was kind of quivering… I was never really that tough before,” Delorme joked. “But next meeting they came in and said chief, we figured it out.”

Despite the hurdle of partisan politics laid out in Delorme’s address, Cowess would go on to make history as the first First Nation in the country to have recognized jurisdiction over their child and family services.

However, Delorme also said no two First Nations are the same and each community’s individual path to self-determination will look different.

Don’t compare Muskoday to Cowessess, and Cowessess to Kawacatoose,” he said. “Every nation is on a different healing journey and we all must understand and respect we inherited this moment.”