One year before I was elected to the Central Saanich Council table in 2008, my sister Joni was elected to the Tsartlip Council table. She was the first in our family to be elected to a governance table.
12 years later, Joni’s name is back on the Tsartlip ballot. It will be her seventh election. That’s right: seven elections in 12 years. We elect a new Chief and Council in Tsartlip every two years. Some First Nations have changed this part of the Indian Act, moving to three-year or four-year election cycles. I’ve witnessed the challenge two-year political cycles cause our community. More on this in a future post.
I write this post at a table in the back corner of the plenary room at the sixth annual B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders’ Gathering. Surrounded by 1000 Indigenous leaders, I had an overwhelming feeling that it was important to take a moment and acknowledge the incredible leadership in the room.
Four months ago, Tsartlip Chief Don Tom was elected as the Vice-President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). At the opening of the Leadership Gathering this year, Chief Tom was at the big table with Premier John Horgan, Cheryl Casimer and Assembly of First Nation Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
As I watch our Chief on the stage and listened to his opening statement, as I have watched my sister and listened to her experiences over the past decade representing our community, I have a profound respect for their love, patience and steadfast commitment to improving the quality of life in our village.
This all takes me back to a taxi ride through Vancouver with B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver a few years ago. We were on our way to speak to the UBCIC annual conference in Musqueam. Andrew asked if there was anything in particular he should emphasize.
So here I take my own advice.
I raise my hands to the powerful Indigenous leaders in British Columbia. There are few leaders in our province that have to do so much with so little. There are no other leaders that face the deliberate and legislated challenges that were created with the Indian Act. As we see at this gathering and every gathering I have attended, from out of this environment grows a type leadership that is unparalleled in our country. I am inspired by the resilience and patience demonstrated by Indigenous leaders.