Joan Gentles by any measure is a remarkable woman.
The extent of her accomplishments and contributions to the community were recognized in a special tribute paid to her at the International Women’s Day dinner held at Thompson Rivers University Friday, March 9.
The dinner was organized by the Women’s Contact Society.
Executive director Irene Willsie presented Gentles with the award and lakecity author and historian Diana French presented the detailed history about Gentles’ life and accomplishments.
“Joan has spent her adult life working to make sure First Nations people receive equality and justice and that they preserve their culture as they integrate into the mainstream of society,” French says in her tribute.
“It doesn’t matter whether it be a struggling student or teacher, or a rodeo contestant, Joan is always there to encourage or support.
“She will tell you that no one achieves anything alone, that it takes teamwork, but she has been a catalyst for change in the Cariboo Chilcotin as a court-worker, counsellor, educator, rodeo competitor, mentor, friend, and always as an example.”
Among her many accomplishments Gentles has been a rancher, rodeo and pony express race competitor, Williams Lake Stampede Queen, B.C. Indian Princess and Canadian Indian Princess serving during Expo 67.
Her personal projects included supporting and promoting the building of the local Friendship Centre, and encouraging First Nations people to be proud of their heritage.
She worked for the B.C. Telephone Company, became the first First Nations court worker in the Cariboo, before taking her teaching degree, teaching, and in 1994 become director of instruction for the School District 27 First Nations Department in 1994.
Among many other accomplishments she became the first certified female rodeo judge in B.C., achieving 100 per cent on the written exam.
A wife and mother, she raised two sons, and over the years has experienced many hardships.
Gentles has received numerous honours, ranging from Williams Lake Citizen of the Year to the B.C. Golden Jubilee award and a B.C. Rodeo Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1992 she received the Order of B.C.
For the full story about Gentles look for French’s story in the Tribune’s annual Casual Country feature edition coming up in June.