Williams Lake First Nation's Chief Willie Sellars Jr. is on the show this week to talk about the positive developments that have come since passing the land code 7 years ago. Having been involved early on, Chief Sellars Jr. attributes strong community engagement and support for why land code works for them. Under his leadership, cultural revitalization balances the many economic development interests in this well-situated community.
1:03 Chief Sellars congratulates RP and team on the podcast.
2:06 Population of Williams Lake and rural surroundings is diverse with about 50,000 population and is really the hub to a number of 15 First Nation communities.
3:26 They own a golf course and campsite and are moving into future tourism opportunities. Investing in culture and language revitalization.
4:43 Chief Sellars talks about his background at university, as a firefighter and then moving into the role of a special projects coordinator and then onto council. He really liked the community engagement process of the land code process, including urban engagement sessions to engage as many as possible. Highest voter turnout ever, since eclipsed! 95% said Yes.
7:57 Land Code basically sold itself because of so much animosity toward the federal control over the Band.
8:58 Chief says they've been lucky with capacity and great hiring for legal counsel, economic development positions. He had great mentorship under a woman chief.
11:03. Land Code has led to the development of other laws, including real matrimonial property law, dog nuisance, etc. A balance between people who want change and those who say you're moving too fast. Very challenging.
12:42 How does he find balance? Golf, basketball, year-round skating, taking kids fishing.
14:37 Land management helped with a big highway landing project and local infrastructure development. 49 acres of reserve land was needed to build out the highway. The band turned down lowball offers for land value. Land Code gave Band huge credibility and leverage.
Important to build homes and create a tax base for own-source revenues. And most important, $2 million in wages went to members! Many other jobs from Band-owned enterprises. Open for business at the speed of business.
24:00 Chief Sellars gets into the demographics of membership, located around the world. They've had great engagement with them, which is difficult, but vital. Land Code brought them together on a common cause.
25:50 He talks about the engagement strategy with the community, especially in light of Covid and the move to online spaces. He loves getting people into a room to meet face-to-face. Elders provide important advice, especially in the recent Kamloops tragedy and the investigations that will be required. All nations are included because they all had people go to that school.
29:30 Chief discusses his thoughts on 'decolonization'. He wants to see First Nations on a level playing field, but there is still discrimination, especially in an old-school town and municipalities need more education. Hard for them to accept new concepts, such as leasing on First Nations land. There is an awakening in Indian country. Yes, we can celebrate those children coming home, but there is so much more to do. People need to prove themselves by doing more than using the reconciliation buzzword.
32:50 A few jokes about golf and Richard signs off.
33:38 Episode ends
Williams Lake First Nation (T'exelcemc)
First Nations Land Management Resource Centre
Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Managem