“You are arrogant, you haven’t accomplished anything yet, and you haven’t contributed anything to your community.”
These are the first words I read on social media on January 1st, 2021. It was 9 am. They were directed towards me because I had the audacity to have an article in the newspaper that I had just been elected Councillor at the Canim Lake Band.
What a great way to start the year. It was foreshadowing for the year ahead. Just the beginning. The person who directed that anger towards me was an older white male whom I once considered a mentor. A person I used to go to for advice. After this, I immediately realized he was just another one of the Indian agents participating in the “Indian Industry” in Canada. A person who lives large on an island home while our people suffer.
What he saw when I posted the article wasn’t arrogance, self-promotion, or lack of contribution. What he saw was a young Indigenous person who had gained experience, knowledge, connections, and was going to use this to benefit his community. Who could do it independently from the Indian Industry. It was and is a threat to their livelihoods and control. Because while folks like that live on their island mansions, our people continue to suffer while the well- being of our community never seems to move forward.
In decolonizing theory, what he saw was me making an effort to end intergenerational trauma. Because people like him re-traumatize our people through their “good work”. They cause us to be dependent on them. They view themselves as the saviour. They enjoy the control they are able to exert over our communities. The relationship these people continue to have with our communities is an abusive one. And my ability to see, think, and do independent of the “advisors” no longer served the abusive persons needs.
He didn’t know that he picked the wrong person to fuck with. Obviously this person is no longer in my life. But at the time the words hurt. It took some deliberate effort to learn to overcome those types of personal attacks. To reflect that energy back where it belongs rather than take it on. Because they never stop. The lateral violence in the community rarely stops.
Throughout the year, our community faced so many challenges. We had a major COVID outbreak throughout January, we lost three elders, we had many in the hospital, we represented over 10% of all cases in the province, we experienced flooding and people had to be evacuated, we had two fires burning in close vicinity, during which we had to evacuate our most vulnerable people, and now we are living through a cold snap. It all really felt like we were living through some sort of horror movie at the time.
Our lockdown lasted through most of January. Our household was on lockdown. I remember how weird it felt that in our own home, we had to wear a mask while cooking meals. Or the complete powerless feeling hearing the news that our grandma Ella had passed away. At that moment it was like the world stopped for a moment. Everything went silent for a few moments. My chest tightened. For those moments, the weight of the pandemic felt like the weight of the world. It’s a loss I hope nobody else has to experience. All because a few people chose not to follow the pandemic guidelines, we lost our dear kye7e and our community lost an entire library of information.
Throughout it all, we have continued to march forward as a community. A lot of the time, we were in a state of emergency. Thankfully we have emergency experts in our community. I’m not one of them. But because of them, I was safe to continue my work. This included council duties, duties as an advisor to start our band’s new company, Spelqweqs, and duties as a negotiator on the treaty team. It’s a lot.
I volunteered to do Council work in forestry and natural resources. This was a pretty steep learning curve as I’m neither a forester, miner, or oil and gas worker and had only introductory knowledge of the subjects. Thankfully we have experts who can assist us when we need help, including always making informed decisions. I’ve even gotten good enough at forestry stuff that our foresters have allowed me to attend forestry meetings on my own. Uhhh, ok. We had some major successes in forestry including having a forestry stewardship plan approved which more closely reflects our Band’s values. We participated in reforming forestry policy and legislation at the Provincial legislation, and recently had a forestry strategy approved by Chief and Council as our official guidance on forestry matters.
With the company, we succeeded in hiring a CEO for Spelqweqs and have done a lot of work to reorganize the Band’s companies under one umbrella. This was done to remove politics from business. It was also done to ensure that there is proper professional business oversight over the Band’s companies. Spelqweqs is overseen by an arms-length Board of Directors who are business professionals from throughout the province. It also allows Chief and Council and other Band managers to focus their work on the community as it should be.
With Treaty, we’ve been working on transferring nearly 3500 acres of land back to the Band valued at approximately $7 million. I’m looking forward to these transfers as they will be the first lands transferred back since our reserve was created 134 years ago. Land back is the number one priority.
Of course none of this was easy. But having an amazing team to work with makes it worthwhile.
Personally, I couldn’t have done it all without my friends. It’s because of them that I went on more adventures than ever before! Whether it was cliff jumping, fishing, paddle boarding, snow shoeing, climbing mountains, eating on a restaurant patio because my favourite movie was filmed there, road trips, more restaurant hangouts, golfing, biking, brunches, it was all fun. It brings to mind the phrase your parents probably asked you “would you jump off a cliff if your friends asked you?” I can confirm that my friends jump off cliffs with me if I ask.
My primary love language is quality time. So any time someone wants to go on an adventure, I’m down. Especially if it’s a new or thrilling experience. But I equally love just sitting on the dock at the lake and chatting about life for hours. Or we don’t even have to talk. Driving down the road in complete silence is equally valid in my mind. But growing and deepening my friendships has been the most rewarding part of 2021 for me. It feels good to have someone give you a pep talk before a challenging meeting, to remind you to be the bigger person, and to have someone invite you on a fishing trip, or just check in to see how you’re doing.
Who knows what 2022 has in store. Maybe some landslides? We’re running out of time for the roaring 20’s though. Oh well, with my friends I know we’re ready for anything life throws at us. Let your light shine.
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.