Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations announced his candidacy on Wednesday.
"It was a very humbling experience for me," he said. "I was surrounded by some very respected elders."
Bellegarde said he wants to promote self-determination of aboriginal groups in Canada and move towards economic self-sufficiency.
"When you look at the quality of life for us as indigenous people here in Canada, it's not that good. It's not that positive. It's not that healthy," he said.
Inadequate housing and high rates of youth suicide are among the issues that need to be addressed, he added.
Bellegarde previously ran against former national chief Shawn Atleo in the assembly's 2009 election.
Atleo abruptly resigned in May amid criticism for his support of the federal government's proposed education reforms.
Bellegarde said that if he is elected, he plans to call for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls and focus on the revitalization of aboriginal languages.
He also wants to alleviate the socioeconomic gap that affects aboriginal communities.
"Priorities, they're all linked," he said.
"I will be visiting as many territories and regions as possible to listen to the leadership, to listen to the people."
The leadership election is to take place Dec. 9 to 11 in Winnipeg.