What Will I Do as Chief of Chawathil First Nation?
How do we help First Nation communities thrive?
For those of you who don’t know, I am a member of Chawathil First Nation - near Hope, BC. I’ve grown up “off-reserve”, which means my experiences as an Indigenous person are somewhat different than individuals who grow up “on-reserve”. For many First Nations people, this creates a cultural divide. Individuals who experience the challenges of living on-reserve often look at those who grew up off-reserve as different and as lucky.
I often try to explain to people some of the notable differences to put it into context. On-reserve individuals within my community are about a 20 minute drive to the nearest community resource for housing, shelter, food or programming. Housing on-reserve is not maintained as thoroughly as in municipalities where there is a tenancy dispute branch. There is also not adequate funding for housing repairs, which makes maintenance of homes more challenging.
Visiting my community was always a stressful endeavour. My mother didn’t drive, so we would rely on community members or family members to drive us. At times, this was very stressful as the night would be coming to an end and it wasn’t clear how we were getting home. That said, I made close friends with young people my age, and even admired their energy. Today, many of those individuals I admired are no longer with us, mostly due to trauma and alcohol.
That is a major reason why I chose to run for Chief of Chawathil First Nation and in this article I’d like to explain why…