Submitted by Rob Louie
The Lower Kootenay Band mourns the loss of a respected leader and community advocate, Wayne Louie. Wayne passed away suddenly at age 59 while working at the Site C Dam in the Fort St. John area. He died of cardiac arrest.
Wayne grew up on the Creston flats in a small log cabin with his 7 siblings. In the summer months, as a child, he would help his grandmother pick strawberries in the Wynndel area. He fished, hunted and trapped from the time he could walk right up to his passing to the other world.
Wayne was also an athlete. He belonged to Creston Boxing Club in the 1960s under the tutelage of the late, great Creston boxing coach Mike Moore. Wayne also played hockey, basketball, and baseball. He helped form the Creston Slo-Pitch league in the early 1980s. In the 1980s, he took his Lower Kootenay Band baseball team to tournaments in BC, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
After acquiring practical work experience in his younger days, Wayne was employed at the Lower Kootenay Band office in the early 1980s as an economic development officer. Over the years, he gained the respect of the Band and became Chief in the early 1990s.
After he finished as Chief, Wayne moved on to look to his next task. He noticed a great need to revive and retain the Lower Kootenay Band’s culture. So, he asked his mother Isabel Louie to teach him how to make the traditional birch bark canoe. It was here that he found his calling as a traditionalist. He assembled his traditional regalia so that he could dance at pow-wows. Wayne not only revived the art of birch bark canoe-making, but he also re-learned how to make a tuli-teepee, a traditional fish weir, and a sweat lodge while also culling an elk, deer, and moose every Fall. He would always share the meat with Band members and family.
He loved all 8 of his children. Wayne helped his children to the best of his ability. He was a family man of the community, too. Many youths at the Lower Kootenay Band looked up to him. He always made time for his family. He also had numerous friends from Creston, the Ktunaxa Nation, and all over BC and the US.
The name Wayne Louie became known in the Canadian legal world. In 2015, he helped give legal definition to the fiduciary relationship that exists between a band member and a band council in Canada. It was at that time he became a champion of Indigenous community reform. His community values helped him lead the Louie v. Louie court case – a landmark court case that restored the balance of power between his people and his elected officials. The rest is history.
As politics goes, while some may disagree with Wayne’s approach to resolving an issue, or unsure why he chose a particular course of action, you always knew what side he was on. The Lower Kootenay Band will never have another Wayne Louie with his kind of knowledge, special skills, and celebrity-like status. But, he did leave his people his lasting legacy and something to remember.