It might be an exaggeration to label Friday’s inauguration of a new Lower Kootenay Band chief and new band councilors as historic, but it certainly was significant. Chief Jason Louie accomplished his goal of reaching out to the rest of the Creston Valley by holding the ceremony in Prince Charles Theatre, almost certainly the first time such an event has been held off the reserve.
Louie, soft-spoken and understated, like many of his Lower Kootenay people, has his work cut out for him. But he clearly has town council and regional directors on his side. Mayor Ron Toyota MCed the event. Several town councilors were in the audience and directors from Regional District of Central Kootenay areas A, B and C spoke at the ceremony. To a person, they were warm and welcoming, both of Louie and the opportunity to participate in the ceremony.
Conspicuous by his absence on Friday was longtime band chief Chris Luke Sr. Luke chose not to run for re-election in part, I suspect, because a group of LKB residents (including the new chief’s brother, Robert Louie Jr.) went public with a series of grievances, some of which were even taken to court.
I played a role in the airing of those grievances, interviewing some of LKB residents and attending a meeting of those who were leading the way in a call for change. The only criticism I received for running a story was from a non-First Nations person who felt I had harmed the many good efforts the Lower Kootenay Band chief and administration office had undertaken. I disagreed, saying that the dissidents had every right to ask questions and state their concerns.
On Friday, Chief Louie was gracious in acknowledging Luke’s long service. He explained that he had spoken to Luke earlier in the day and received congratulations.
I’m hoping that Luke simply decided that this was a day for Louie and the new councilors, and that he won’t fade from public life. I consider Chris to be a friend and he is, without question, very high on a list of people I admire. He is a deep thinker, extremely spiritual and has a passion for ensuring his people have an important role to play in this valley.
Jason Louie is not unlike Luke in many ways. He’s quiet and goes about his business without a great need to draw attention to himself. Louie’s work at the Yaqan Nukiy school speaks for itself — in my discussions with band members and others who have an involvement with the LKB, I have not heard any criticism about the school. It is, from all accounts, run openly, with participation from parents and members of the community. While the school celebrates Ktunaxa heritage, it has also attracted students who neither live in Lower Kootenay nor are of First Nations descent.
In his speech on Friday, Louie spoke of the challenges he will face as a chief. He acknowledged that one person cannot make change. And he thanked those who have helped him succeed in his own life, especially his father, Robert Sr., who was a single dad to his two sons when they were younger. Louie seems to be aware that he has the experience of his band council and the wisdom of Lower Kootenay elders to draw from. By reaching out to Creston town council and RDCK directors, he has enlarged that circle and will use every available resource to help better the lives of Lower Kootenay Band members.
Chief Louie deserves credit for taking on the challenges that go with the chief’s role. I hope he gets the support he needs to carry through on his desire to make positive changes.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.