Cadmus Delorme says he wouldn’t be chief of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan if it wasn’t for golf.

“Golf is my driver,” says Delorme.

He grew up playing at golf course on his reserve and eventually won the 2011 Saskatchewan Mid-Amateur men’s golf championship. The sport taught him the life lessons he practices every day in his role as chief of the community of 4,200.

“My greatest enemy is myself but my greatest asset is myself as well, in my thoughts and my attitude,” explains the 35-year-old, who has a master’s degree in public administration.

Delorme says he governing style is simple. He encourages everyone on his staff and in the community to strive for excellence.

“Use your mind to lead yourself and your heart to lead others,” says Delorme, who has been chief for just over a year.

Where Delorme’s mind is leading him now is to help his community move forward by tackling the important issues impacting many First Nations communities.

“We don’t want to live in Third World conditions in some of our homes. We don’t want the socio-economic challenges,” he says.

Delorme meets regularly with federal bureaucrats and politicians to discuss these issues, and has earned praise for his pragmatic, problem-solving approach.

“The response I often get is that I’m a breath of fresh air because of the way I approach it,” explains Delorme. “I’m not in there pounding my fist and pointing my finger. I’m in there explaining [that the system] really doesn’t work and how are we going to change it.

“I’m not going to have my children coming into this office and explaining the same thing I’m trying to explain right now.”

As an Indigenous man, Delorme said he draws on his values and his teachings from his ancestors. He points to his long braids as his way of honouring those who came before him.

He says braiding his hair teaches him patience and reminds him of the spiritual side of life.

“Use your mind to lead yourself and your heart to lead others.”

“I like to wear my braids a lot because it shows young men — young boys — something our ancestors had, and if you want it today, don’t be shy,” says Delorme. “Wear your braids with pride.”

Looking at its treatment of Indigenous people, Delorme says it’s difficult to give Canada a passing grade on its first 150 years. He’s challenging Canadians and all levels of government to do better in the next 150 years.

He’s optimistic he’ll see improvement, and offers a few suggestions on how non-Indigenous people can help.

“Learn a word in an Indigenous language,” he says. “Eat some kind of food that Indigenous people have — both traditional and contemporary— and locate the [tribal] territory you’re on.”

Finally, Delorme would like to see the spirit of the original treaties upheld to “not jump in each other’s canoe, but to canoe down the river together.”