Elsie Knott (1922 – 1995)

Elsie Knott

Elsie Knott was the first woman in Canada to serve as chief of a First Nation. She was first elected in 1954, three years after the Indian Act was amended to give Indigenous women the right to vote in band elections and hold positions on band councils. Knott led the Anishinaabe Curve Lake First Nation until 1960, was re-elected in 1970, and held the post until 1976. She dedicated herself to improving the quality of life for members of her community, particularly with respect to housing, water quality, infrastructure and social services. A staunch advocate for preserving Ojibway traditions and culture, she helped establish an Ojibway language program at the Curve Lake First Nation School. In 1999, the Union of Ontario Indians awarded Knott a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.

“When I went in by a real big landslide, it never dawned on me that I was making history.”

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