First Peoples Governance
TopicFirst Peoples Governance
Essential QuestionWhat are the benefits and challenges of a nation having two forms of leadership?
Learning Standards Content
Students are expected to know:
- legal and governmental systems and structures, including at least one indigenous to the Americas.
Students are expected to be able to do:
- compare the roles of hereditary and elected chiefs. (perspective)
- understand how BC first nations came to have two forms of leadership. (cause and consequence)
I can name a similarity and a difference between hereditary and elected chiefs.
I can consider the benefits and challenges of hereditary and elected leadership.
I can explain how BC first nations came to have two forms of leadership
First People's Principles of LearningLearning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
- Introduce the topic of hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs in BC’s first nations by showing a 1:45 minute video from the Vancouver Sun (January 9, 2019): Hereditary chiefs vs elected band councils: a thorny issue.
- Ask students:
- What is the difference between a hereditary chief and an elected band councils? (Hereditary chiefs inherit their role. Elected band councils are chosen by the band to make decisions for a set amount of time)
- What is the conflict in this video? (Elected band councils gave permission for a natural gas pipeline to be built through Wet’suwet’en territory. A group of hereditary chiefs are against the project.)
- What makes this a complicated issue? (Question of who has the right to make decisions about what happens on traditional First Nation’s land.)
- Think of an example of hereditary leadership. (eg. Queen)
- Think of an example of elected leadership. (eg. Prime Minister)
- What are the strengths of each of these forms of leadership?
(Hereditary leadership provides preservers traditions and culture.
Elected leadership allows people to select their leaders and these leaders are accountable to the people.)
- What are the challenges of each of these forms of leadership?
(A hereditary leader may not be well-suited to the position and they may make decisions based on what is best for their family.
An elected leader may make say things in order to get elected and then not keep their promises.)
- Explain that hereditary leadership was the traditional form of leadership amongst First Nations while elected councils resulted from the Indian Act of 1876. Elected councils were meant to replace the hereditary system and were a form of assimilation—a way of making First Nations’ cultures more like European culture.
- Engage students in a discussion of the benefits and problems of a nation having two forms of leadership.
- Have students turn to a partner to predict in what ways hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs are similar and in what ways they are different.
- Students will work with a partner to research these two types of governance in BC First Nations. They will analyze the similarities and differences by making notes in the graphic organizer Hereditary Chiefs and Elected Chiefs in BC First Nations.
- Provide students with time to conduct research using digital and/or print resources such as the ones listed under Additional References.
- What are the benefits and challenges of a nation having two forms of leadership?
- Introduce students to Native-Land.ca, an online platform where users can interact with maps of Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages, and locate themselves and their favorite places.
- Have students use Native-Land.ca to find out which first nation(s) territory their school is on.
- Have students use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to discuss the following:
- What do they know about the First Nation’s territory that their school is on?
- What do they know about the culture of this First Nation?
- Have students use First Nation Profiles Interactive Map to learn more:
- Where is the local reserve?
- Does this first nation have hereditary leadership, elected leadership, or both?
“Indigenous Corporate Training, Inc. Hereditary Chief definition and 5 FAQs.” 2020,
BC CTV News. 2019. “Elected vs. Hereditary Chiefs: What's the Difference in Indigenous Communities?” January 11.
McCarty, Emily. 2019. “The Complicated History of Hereditary Chiefs and Elected Councils.” First Nations Drum. February 4.
Sterritt, Angela. 2019 CBC. “When Pipeline Companies Want to Build on Indigenous Lands, with Whom do They Consult?” CBC. January 9.
BC First Nations Land, Title and Governance: Introduction. [n.d.] “The Story of First Nations Governance in BC.”
BC Treaty Commission. 2020. “Self-Government.”
Canada. 2017. “First Nations in Canada.” May 2.
Canada. 2020. “Governance.” May 27.
Canada. 2018. “Principles: Respecting the Government of Canada's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
Canada. 2020. “Self-Government.” August 25.
First Nations Financial Management Board. 2020. “First Nations Governance Project.”
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2010. “Differences between Self-Governing First Nations and Indian Act Bands.” September 15,
Institute on Governance. 2018. “First Nations Governance Project: Phase 1.” August,
OECD iLibrary. 2020. “Chapter 1. Overview of Indigenous Governance in Canada: Evolving Relations and Key Issues and Debates.”
Download the legal backgrounder
Materials and Resources
October 01, 2020