Grand Chief Biography
Vernon Watchmaker, Kehewin, AB
GRAND CHIEF VERNON WATCHMAKER was appointed to Treaty Six Grand Chief on January 1st, 2021.
In September 2018, Okimaw Vernon Watchmaker was elected Chief of Kehewin Cree Nation. He held the position of Council member for two terms, prior to being elected. Okimaw comes from a long-standing history of leaders in Kehewin, his dad (Harry Watchmaker) was a member of Council, and his Mosom (Grand Father) was Okimaw Simon Watchmaker. This legacy of leadership, his education and cultural upbringing instilled strong values for the protection of Kehewin’s inherent and treaty rights, and cultural way of life. Okimaw holds the position of port folio holder for Governance, Finance and Administration, and as Council member he held the port folio holder for Education and Health. Okimaw is an active member of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, Assembly of Treaty Chiefs, Treaty Alliance, Treaty 1 – 11 First Nations, and the Chair for the Tribal Chiefs Ventures.
In 2011, Okimaw graduated from the University of Alberta, with a bachelor’s degree in Native Studies and Certificate in Indigenous Governance and Partnership, and he graduated high school from Kehewin Cree Nation School (which was designed by the world renown architect Douglas Cardinal, and was the first school to be built on a First Nation in Canada). Kehewin is proud of this accomplishment, it has inspired so many Kehewin members for higher education in the areas of justice, education, arts, sciences, business, and the trades. Okimaw has a vested interest in the recognition of the Treaty Right to Education, and as project lead in Kehewin he established a model for Treaty Based Funding for Education. This model focuses on retention of Kehewin’s cultural way of life, language, and worldview. In a few years, Kehewin will endeavour to establish a full Cree Immersion school. Okimaw believes that those yet unborn, children and youth have an educational future that supports them holistically for lifelong learning.
Throughout his career, he has worked as an analyst, technician and project lead for lands and resources, economic development, education, and the energy sector. He worked as a technician for the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, in lands and consultation. He served as a member of student council at the University of Alberta, and board member at the Bonnyville Friendship Centre. Having a keen in the interest in youth development, he has coached and organized several youth sports and recreational activities.
Okimaw lives in Kehewin with his wife and has eight children and one grandchild.