In his short tenure as chief of the Lower Kootenay Band, Jason Louie has made remarkable strides in finding ways to connect his small community to the rest of the Creston Valley. It’s an effort that deserves our support and one will make us all the better for it.
I admire Chief Louie all the more for the ways in which he is reaching out because he is not an extrovert who fulfills his own needs by moving around in the spotlight. Louie is quiet and thoughtful and most of what goes on in his mind is an intensely personal experience. He wears the mantle of leadership out of a sense of responsibility rather than a desire for attention.
Perhaps it was coincidental that Louie was elected chief and the LKB attracted Linda Berg to come to the Creston Valley and take on the challenge of chief operating officer, the community’s key administrative position.
Berg, like Louie, were following in the steps of men who had their jobs for a long time and neither had an easy time of it. In a small community like Lower Kootenay, there is a heightened awareness of what is going on with local government and the pressures are many. Fortunately for Louie, he is working with an administrator who is also a very good communicator and the two have been surprisingly successful in raising the Lower Kootenay profile around the Creston Valley.
Another fortunate coincidence has been the arrival of RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan, whose Métis heritage gives him a deep understanding of the challenges First Nations people face and the many attributes they have to offer their non-native counterparts. Add to the mix Cpl. Charlotte Joa, a First Nations person who spent most of her life in the Northwest Territories, and it would appear that the RCMP and Lower Kootenay are more closely connected than ever.
And the opportunities for interaction and cooperation don’t end there. On Monday of this week, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats visited Lower Kootenay to take on the Braves for a friendly, but very competitive, floor hockey game. Sitting in the stands and obviously enjoying the game was Thunder Cats coach Josh Hepditch, who is also Métis. I think it speaks volumes about the club’s commitment to part of the community that every member of the Thunder Cats, even those on the injury list, showed up for the game.
Communication is a huge part of our growing connectedness, obviously. We at the Advance can’t cover stories and promote events that we don’t know about. Berg and Louie have been terrific at keeping us informed with personal invitations and by including us in the band’s regular and very informative newsletter.
Attempts to bring local governments together are nothing new, but recently the level of communication between the Lower Kootenay Band and the Town of Creston seems to have reached new heights and there is a mutual respect that is heartening to witness. Louie and Mayor Ron Toyota have a close working relationship and members of both councils have shown an interest in sharing their knowledge and concerns.
In this week’s Advance is a letter to the editor lauding the efforts of Louie in acknowledging Addictions Awareness Week by organizing a walk from Lower Kootenay to the Creston Valley Hospital, where a version of a Kootenay canoe was presented to the hospital administration. The walk and presentation were filled with symbolism, and the fact that they brought together band members, medical professionals, the RCMP and other members of the community speaks volumes about how a small gesture can have a large impact.
On Monday night, when I walked into the Lower Kootenay Band complex and dropped off my food bank donations (the price of admission), it occurred to me that Louie and his council, the administration and employees, and the LKB members might not be loud but they have much to offer in the Creston Valley. There was an obvious sense of pride when Louie announced that Lower Kootenay was in the lead in its challenge to the Town of Creston and other groups to collect food bank donations.
It’s this quiet, determined leadership and an eye that never fails to see the bigger picture that is helping to unite Lower Kootenay with the rest of the valley. May the efforts continue, with the support of us all.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.