‘Change was needed’: Jane Weyallon Armstrong sworn in as new Monfwi MLA

Housing, social issues and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are some of the new MLA's priorities.


Jane Weyallon Armstrong, the new Monfwi MLA, had dozens of friends and family at her swearing-in ceremony. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB)

Following three oaths, a prayer song, and singing pledges, what is there left to do but celebrate with drum dance?

Tłı̨chǫ drummers had Jane Weyallon Armstrong’s friends and family dancing Thursday afternoon after seeing her sworn in as their new voice in the Legislative Assembly.

“I feel relieved now that I got sworn in,” she said after the ceremony. “It’s a bit emotional, because I thought about my late parents, and I thought about our ancestors. Because if it wasn’t for them, we would not be here.”

During her swearing-in ceremony, two Elders, Elizabeth Michel and Phillip Dryneck, sat by Weyallon Armstrong’s side. Longtime family friends, she said Elders played a big part in getting her to run for the position.

“It means a lot to them too that I am here,” she said. “They have faith in me, they trust me… change was needed and I’m going to do the work for them and be their voice.”

They also offered words of guidance throughout the campaign.

She remembers a specific piece of advice from Joe Wedzin: “When the vehicle goes in a ditch, and you try to push the vehicle out by yourself, you’re not going to do it. But if you put (many) people, then you can push it out. He said, ‘That’s how you’re going to move forward too, by getting the help of others’.”

Dozens of her supporters filled the Legislative Assembly’s public gallery; many told CKLB they were happy for her and wished her well in her new role.

Elder Phillip Dryneck, Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong, and NWT Commissioner Margaret Thom led a drum dance following the swearing-in ceremony. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB)

Priorities

Weyallon Armstrong says housing and tackling social issues are at the top of her agenda as MLA. That includes keeping the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in everyone’s mind, something she is well suited to do as the former president of the Native Women’s Association of the NWT.

“It’s still a very important issue for me, and especially to the young girls and boys, it’s part of the family unity,” she said. Her experience as president, she added, will help her not forget those women and girls.

Weyallon Armstrong is the latest Tłı̨chǫ woman to take on a leadership role in politics. Earlier this year, Gamètì and Wekweètì each elected women as chiefs. Asked what it felt like to see more women in leadership, she laughed that “It took 100 years.”

“It’s a big accomplishment and it just goes to show that it’s time,” she said. “It’s important in all areas for any government. We have a different perspective.”

The Northwest Territories now counts 10 women MLAs.

She also said she’ll be following former MLA Jackson Lafferty’s footsteps and will speak in Tłı̨chǫ whenever she has the opportunity during sessions.

Her first opportunity to do so will be on Oct. 14, when MLAs reconvene.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com