Newly elected Mohawk Grand Chief getting to work at Assembly of First Nations meeting

"I'm ready to hit the ground running," said Cody Diabo, the new Grand Chief of Kahnawake, on day two of the job as he represented his community Tuesday at the Assembly of First Nations' General Assembly in Montreal. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

It’s day two of Cody Diabo’s new role as Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and he’s already on the job, representing his community Tuesday at the Assembly of First Nations three-day Annual General Assembly in Montreal.

His win was confirmed early Sunday morning — taking 542 votes out of about 1,100.

“The community came out and supported me in overwhelming numbers, so they know what I can do. I’ve been on council since 2019. I don’t shy away from the hard files or challenges and I’m here today, second day on the job,” said Grand Chief Diabo.

Cody Diabo, Kahnawake’s new grand chief addresses the Assembly of First Nations annual general assembly in Montreal, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

The 34-year-old had been serving on the council as lead portfolio chief for lands and territories and as he made the transition into his new role, his first order of business was to make connections with key players.

“I’ve already reached out to some of the contacts and the Quebec government saying we need to get back to the table. We have land issues, land debts that are owed to us and I’ll be reaching out to the federal government as well and starting to get those conversations moving, so that’s priority number one,” said Grand Chief Diabo.

Before being elected council chief in 2021, Diabo says he was just an average guy — a father — looking to get justice for his community and serving as a Kahnawake Peacekeeper.

“It’s just an honour at the end of the day you know to fight for my people,” he said.

“Together we can create a future where our communities thrive, harmony and respect for our rights and recognition of our contributions.”

Diabo greeted the general assembly with a speech to welcome those participating from coast-to-coast onto the Mohawk territory. He will be on hand for the next three days at the event where theme is “Strengthening Our Relations.”

“There’s always strengthened numbers. We have many of the same issues that are facing all First Nations people and together we can start pushing back on the encroachments that the federal and provincial governments are imposing on us. So for myself, it’s land is most important and they need to recognize that they’re still guests here in Turtle Island.”

Diabo is the community’s fifth grand chief, succeeding Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer who was elected in 2021. He and the 11 new council chiefs started their three-year mandate Monday, a day after what Diabo describes as a surreal election result.

“It left me speechless which I always keep saying is a first and people in my community know me as that doesn’t happen very often, but now starting to get into the role and hit the ground running, things got to get done. There’s a lot of work that is needed and I’m up to the task.”

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