Kristy Alphonse Palmantier of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) lives a life of purpose.
“As a First Nations woman, it’s been a hard, hard battle all my life, but I was raised in a matriarchal Shuswap society,” she said.
“Right from when I was born, I was taught to be strong and to look after my family and my community, and that’s what I do—that’s what I try to do.”
Alphonse Palmantier’s understanding of her own cultural identity began at an early age.
She was born in the WLFN community of Sugar Cane south of Williams Lake and raised by elders and family members, including her grandmother, Celestine Grouse-Alphonse.
Alphonse Palmantier credits her legally-blind great-aunt Elizabeth Grouse whom the community’s gymnasium is named after, for showing her how to overcome any obstacle within her path.
“It was tough to be an Indigenous woman,” Alphonse Palmantier said of her mother.
“There was so much racism and prejudice, and she left and went to nursing school in Vancouver and from there went down to the United States.”
Alphonse Palmantier was in the ninth grade when she too would leave for the U.S. to live with her mother and stepfather, who worked for the navy.
She’d resided in various states, including Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and O’ahu, Hawaii before she was struck with homesickness and knew she had to return.
Over her life, Alphonse Palmantier has worked and volunteered for her First Nations community in which she served two terms on chief and council in between raising six children.
Nearly three decades after obtaining her Agriculture Diploma from Olds College in Alta., Palmantier returned to school to complete her Bachelor in General Studies and Certificate in Indigenous Studies.
In 2017 her stepfather and mother, who would pass away three weeks later, made the drive from Las Vegas, Nevada, to attend her and her sister’s graduation at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake which Alphonse Palmantier was valedictorian.
Since 2006, Alphonse Palmantier has diligently worked with the B.C. government to ensure positive Indigenous engagement, consultation and open communication with stakeholders, industry and Indigenous communities regarding wildlife management and conservation.
“My roots here are as deep as the Douglas Fir taproots,” she said. “I’m just so grounded here in my homeland.”