Elsie Knott

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Elsie Knott
Chief Elsie Knott.jpg
Elsie Knott
BornElsie Marie Taylor
(1922-09-20)September 20, 1922
Curve Lake First Nation
DiedDecember 3, 1995(1995-12-03) (aged 73)
Known forFirst female Chief
Spouse(s)Cecil Knott

Elsie Marie Knott (née Taylor; September 20, 1922 – December 3, 1995)[1] was the first woman in Canada to be elected as Chief of a First Nation. Knott became Chief of the Curve Lake First Nation in 1954, three years after the Indian Act was amended to give First Nations women the right to vote and hold positions in band governments.[2][3][4]


At the age of 33, Elsie Knott became Chief of the Curve Lake First Nation, known at the time as the Mississaugas of Mud Lake, which is a Mississauga Ojibway First Nation near Peterborough, Ontario.[3][5] Elections of other female First Nation chiefs and councilors followed across Canada. By 1960, 21 women held elected band council positions, but elected First Nation female leadership was not widely embraced until the late 1990s–early 2000s.[2][6] Knott herself went on to win eight consecutive elections and served as chief for sixteen years.[5]

She was known for her work relating to preserving the Ojibwe language, which included founding a language program at the Curve Lake First Nation School.[7] As an elder, Knott also helped revive the community's powwow celebrations.[8] At the time of her death, Curve Lake First Nation Chief Keith Knott (not a direct relation) gave Knott's role in developing the reserve's school bus service as a prime example of her leadership and dedication to the community,[8]

She started off with a car of her own, driving a couple of students to school at Lakefield. But as more and more children wanted to go to high school, she bought a hearse and converted it to a school bus.

She later arranged, through the Indian Affairs Department, the purchase of two conventional school buses, which she drove for 25 years.[8]


  • Outstanding Women Award (1992)[9]
  • Her memory was honoured as part of the Anishinabek Nation's Celebration of Women Conference (1998)
  • Life Achievement award, Union of Ontario Indians (1999)[9]


  1. ^ Voyageur, Cora J. (2008). Firekeepers of the Twenty-First Century: First Nations Women Chiefs. Montreal, QC & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 26–33. ISBN 9780773532175. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Harding, Katherine (17 September 2005). "Hail to Ms. Chief". Globe and Mail (Canada). Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b Voyageur, Cora J. (February 2011). "Out in the Open: Elected Female Leadership in Canada's First Nations Community". Canadian Review of Sociology. 48 (1): 67–85.
  4. ^ Curve Lake First Nation (2012). "About Us". Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b Narine, Shari (September 2009). "Women Make Inroads to Political Power". Windspeaker. Aboriginal Multi-Media Society (AMMSA). 27 (6): 12.
  6. ^ Voyageur, Cora J (September 2011). "Female First Nations Chiefs and the Colonial Legacy in Canada". American Indian Culture & Research Journal. 35 (3): 59–78.
  7. ^ Petten, Cheryl. "Elsie Knott - Footprints". Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "Elsie Marie Knott: Enterprising woman first female chief (obituary)". Globe and Mail (Canada). 7 December 1995. p. E6.
  9. ^ a b Elsie Knott, Ammsa.com, Retrieved 22 July 2016