Jason Louie is the elected Chief of the Lower Kootenay Band. (Photo credit Brian Lawrence)

Documentary features Chief Jason Louie

Two days after the first public showing of Seven Days With the Chief at the Tivoli Theatre, a documentary featuring Lower Kootenay Band Chief Jason Louie got a standing ovation at a conference in Kimberley.

Filmed and narrated by documentary filmmaker Christopher Horsethief, Seven Days With the Chief was recorded over seven days in 2017-2018 in attempt to illustrate the diverse challenges and issues that Louie deals with on a daily basis.

“I just want it to be the story that most people will never see,” the three-term chief says early in the 35-minute film.

“There’s no light switch that either sheds light on our future or hides our past. It is a tension found in more than one source,” Horsethief, the narrator, says to open the documentary.

“It requires us to constantly survey, consult and shift to meet the needs of both the old and the new. This tension rises when we engage difference, when we breach ideas to generate solutions to basic questions. Who signs cheques, takes out the trash, looks after the land or advocates for our children? Who works toward new schools, better drinking water? Who secures places to pray the way our parents, our grandparents and their grandparents have danced since the beginning of time?

“Unlike many Western leaders, there’s an added obstacle for today’s indigenous decision makers. It’s not enough to make decisions using the same values that have been passed down, offering us blueprints for maintaining our identity in whatever conversation we’re a part of. It also means learning an entirely new language, mastering the skills that our grandparents would have rejected, that their grandparents would likely not have understood.

“It means saying goodbye, going to school and travelling extensively. It means walking in two worlds, one foot planted in the ancient ways and the other traversing boundaries, reaching beyond our comfort zones and trying to master tools from the new world around us. We have to understand the concepts necessary to interface with the global marketplace. Ideals about resources and economic development unheard of just a few generations ago. We understand that surviving in this world means fighting for everything that we have.

“Today’s indigenous leaders need to understand the things that are very old, and also know how to translate those values into foreign conversations. Investment, taxation, funding, planning, budgets, growth, management and so on. Indigenous leaders have had this added layer that helps buffer indigenous ways from western incursion. Standing in the middle of that buffer means you also absorb all of the pressure. You flex, adapt, and you take up that tension. When it pulls, you pull back. And when it hits you it can become crushing.

“You don’t just represent the children living in your community today. You often represent their families, and the families that might resent you, their grandparents that might not even talk to you. And you represent all of their ancestors, who also happen to be your ancestors.

“I’ve worked with one of these leaders, watched him fight battles on many fronts, sometimes with Western structures, colonial powers and foreign decision makers that care little for us. At other times the battles are against our own people who disagree with him. Some are threatened by him. Others don’t think that a young person should hold that position. Yet, he was chosen, and he is dedicated to his job. “Twenty years ago he asked me to serve as his right hand. It’s given me an unprecedented view of the tension that he mediates, the constant pull back and forth, the stress, the joy, the frustration, the reward. When he asked me to collaborate on this project I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew it would be rewarding.”

With visuals including old and new photographs and filmed scenes showing Louie going about the day-to-day business of being a leader of his people, Seven Days With the Chief shows a man who has spent nine years in his position, facing legal and personal attacks led by his father, brother and uncle. It also shows a deeply spiritual, tenacious and determined leader, and a committed father and husband.

“This is my story. It’s not a campaign video, it’s a healing video,” Louie says. “It was our time for the world to know who the Lower Kootenay Band is, to build these bridges, and not these walls.”

Under his leadership, the Lower Kootenay Band school has grown to include a long waiting list of students, and has become popular with the non-indigenous population as well as LKB members. The Band has acquired Ainsworth Hot Springs and Morris Flowers as Louie remains steadfast in his determinatopm to make his community self-reliant.

He is quick to credit other Band Council members and the staff that fills management rolls.

“Our standards are high because we deserve it,” he says. “We shouldn’t have to settle for a mediocre education, a mediocre housing. And I’m not saying ‘me’, I’m saying ‘we’.

“This vision extends beyond tomorrow. It extends beyond next week, next month and next year. We’re talking about generations into the future.”

In a particularly moving scene, Louie speaks directly into the camera.

“It’s not a good day, today. It is April the 4th, 2018, and I am in in a really dark place,” he says. He has just received a summons to appear in court, and the stresses of chronic depression and a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis are having their way.

“It’s moments like right now that I’m really questioning what I’m doing in this job. Is it even worth it?” he says.

After being shown to an invited guest list of about 70 people late in February, Louie and Creston Mayor Ron Toyota were invited to present Seven Days With the Chief and speak at a seminar in Kimberley sponsored by the Local Government Leadership Academy. It was attended by local government and First Nations elected officials and senior administrators in the East Kootenays.

“The documentary got a standing ovation,” Toyota said. “It was a very moving experience and it was a privilege to be there to support Chief Louie.”

Just Posted

Huckleberry harvesting restricted to protect grizzly habitat

The Province is restricting commercial-scale huckleberry harvesting to protect grizzly bear habitat… Continue reading

Nelson rejects plastic bag ban, opts for education and awareness

Council will collaborate with Chamber of Commerce

Nelson U-Haul shutting down

Kootenay Glass and Mirror will no longer provide the service as of July 12

Search for missing Salmo motorcyclist called off for the time being

RCMP say no evidence of Cory McKay’s whereabouts was found Thursday

Live edge furniture company opens in Creston

Jeremy and Sarah Smith are the proud owners of Dombelltay Custom and… Continue reading

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Most Read