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Chief Dorothy McDonald-Hyde: Fierce and Compassionate Leader

 “Aakdehewin Bravery: To face a foe with integrity. To do what’s right even when the consequences are unpleasant.”

Black and white photo of two men and a woman standing close to each other, the woman is Dorothy McDonald shown pointing and as if speaking toward the men with a teepee standing in the background and a young child holds a sign board and some trees on the far distance.

Chief Dorothy McDonald-Hyde at the Fort McKay Roadblock with political leaders, Fort McKay, 1983.


Dorothy McDonald-Hyde was the first woman Chief in Alberta. She fought to stop discrimination against women and Indigenous peoples. She opposed inequitable land development in the Wood Buffalo region.

Newspaper clipping from Fort McMurray Today on January 14, 1983, with the headline McKay Indians set up blockade written.

Newspaper article about the road blockade in Fort McKay, 1983.


Dorothy was also among those who challenged the treatment of Indigenous women under the provisions of the original Indian Act of 1876 that stripped Indigenous women of their treaty rights if they married men who were Non-Status Indians.

These efforts laid the groundwork for Bill C-31 in 1985, which returned treaty rights and accompanying benefits to more than
60,000 Indigenous women across Canada.

Bill C-31 is recently amended to Bill C-3 in 2011 to allow the grandchildren of women who lost status to obtain their status.

A magazine article with color photo of a woman in front of a blockade, title reads: They called her Chief.

A magazine article about Chief Dorothy McDonald-Hyde, 1985.


Dorothy campaigned for running water, better housing, sewage systems, and firefighting services for the Hamlet of Fort McKay.

She led a successful road blockade to divert dangerous logging trucks driving through the residential community. As an environmentalist, she was tireless in her battles against oil company lawyers and consultants.

A coloured photo from the 1980s of people in a boat on the river, the forest trees are reflected in the water.

Dorothy with family fishing in a nearby river, Fort McKay, 1982.


Dorothy was a visionary leader instrumental in creating the Fort McKay Group of Companies, which has grown from a two-employee organization into a company with over 1,000 employees.

An elderly man standing beside a younger woman, the man is holding a certificate and a feather, the young woman holding a box and a bouquet of flowers.

Rod Hyde and granddaughter Feather McDonald received an award on behalf of Dorothy, Fort McMurray, 2016.


A black and white portrait of a young Dorothy McDonald with short black hair looking forward.

Dorothy McDonald-Hyde, first female Chief of Fort McKay, and Alberta, 1985.

To honour her contributions, the Fort McKay’s band office was renamed the Dorothy McDonald Business Centre to symbolize the power of Matriarchal culture reflected in Dorothy’s legacy.

Moreover, she was a passionate leader involved in various initiatives, including those at the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre, which empowers Indigenous women to participate in decisions affecting the community.

A photo of a modern structure of a building with exposed big trusses and large big windows that make the inside of the building visible from the outside. White lights decorated around the front frame of the roof.

Dorothy McDonald Business Centre opens in 2005, Fort McKay.