Valerie West in the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council’s event coordinator for National Indigenous Peoples Day events in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Valerie West in the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council’s event coordinator for National Indigenous Peoples Day events in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

OUR HOMETOWN: Valerie West

Born and raised in Williams Lake, Valerie West enjoys the diverse cultures of the community

When Valerie West thinks of Williams Lake the word “home” comes to mind.

“I don’t know what it is, but this place is diverse. We have so many different cultures all in one small town. It has always been home,” she said.

West was born and raised in Williams Lake. Her parents, both gone now, were Lillian Squalian from Tisdeldel (Redstone) First Nation and her dad was Richard Duncan Sr. from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek) First Nation.

“There is just my sister, myself and our children left. I have two boys and a girl – seven, nine and 15.”Growing up she attended Mountview Elementary School from Kindergarten to Grade 7 and Anne Stevenson for Grades 8 to 12.

After high school she worked as a receptionist, obtained her early childhood certificate and worked at Pam’s Place, a local restaurant.

“I kind of jumped around all over the place.”

West made her own drum and loves to sing and drum Indigenous songs, something she did with her mom.

“We have a CD with the Nenqayni drummers that we made in 2003.”

These days she drums at different events and recently did her first solo song at the Empowering Our Youth conference held in Kamloops the first week of spring break.

It was hosted by Cariboo Chilcotin Aboriginal Training Employment Centre and S.A.G.E. Trainers of Williams Lake.

“I sang the Peace Song by Arthur Dick from Esk’etemc — he was the one who taught my mom how to drum in 1995.”

Recently Valerie was hired as the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) events coordinator to oversee the planning and organization of the National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Williams Lake taking place Tuesday, June 21.

So far she knows there will be a parade downtown, followed by entertainment at Boitanio Park, which have occurred in the past with participation from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the community.

Valerie will be hosting a planning meeting online for anyone who is interested on Monday, April 4 and sharing sign-in information in the near future.

“It’s been kind of nerve wracking, but I’m settling in and will be inviting people to attend the meeting and consider having a booth at the park event. We will need lots of activities for children.”

During the meeting she hopes to organize a National Indigenous Peoples Day 2022 committee.

The invitation to be involved goes out to local First Nations, community groups, the city, businesses, societies and school groups.

This year’s event will be funded in part by Heritage Canada.

Prior to becoming the events coordinator, she worked on a contract with the NSTC doing outreach with youth and elders for the past year.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, she managed to coordinate some events including most recently a family movie outing at Paradise Cinemas in Williams Lake with lunch provided.

That position was slated to end on March 31, 2022, and Valerie did not know what she would be doing next for work.

“When the funding for the events coordinator position came through and I was asked about it, how could I say ‘no.’”

Valerie recalled helping her mom out at National Aboriginal Day events in Williams Lake in the past.

“We’d be up early helping her withe setting up booths in the park.”

For the upcoming event this June, NSTC is working with the city, and Valerie said her contact person with the city is councillor Sheila Boehm.

READ MORE: National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations planned for Williams Lake area

READ MORE: Williams Lake area First Nation rebrands with traditional spelling

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