Thirty-three-year-old Patrick Harry is the new chief for the “Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem First Nation” formerly known as Canoe Creek Band.
“I’ve been involved with our economic development corporation and was previously the economic development manager,” Harry told the Tribune/Advisor. “I also served on band council for two terms. I guess I want to see some consistency here.”
During his two-year term as chief, for Canoe Creek and Dog Creek, Harry plans to focus on helping the communities move forward in building capacity, making sure planning is completed, and ensuring council is informing community members — on reserve and off reserve — about the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council’s present treaty process.
Presently the band has a limited partnership and is negotiating to activate a First Nations Woodlot License with the provincial government.
Harry has worked on economic development for several years.
After living in Kamloops between 1993 and 2000, he returned to his community and worked for the band as a student doing forestry work and archeological assessments.
“I did timber cruising, block layout and GPSing. I worked from start to finish, every step of the way, in developing our forest licenses with West Fraser out of 100 Mile House.”
The work, he recalled, enabled him to see every corner of the territory which runs from Farwell Canyon to north of Lac La Hache, east to Green Lake and south to Clinton and Carpenter Lake.
“I started gaining knowledge about impacts to our territory and I was able to be involved in traditional use studies funded by the ministry of forests, travelling with elders to learn where all our cabins were and the different names for places.”
In 2008, after attending meetings to learn more about the treaty process, he ran for council for Dog Creek and was elected for a two-year term.
He ran for chief in 2010, wasn’t elected, and in 2012 was elected for another term on council.
This time around he feels lucky to have been elected chief, he said.
Around 700 people come from either Dog Creek and Canoe Creek.
While the two communities are only 35 kilometres apart, they have different area codes, different MLAs and MPs, different schools and different school systems.
At Dog Creek, the school is under School District 27. At Canoe Creek it’s a band-run school.
However, Harry views it as a symbol of strength that the two separate communities operate as one.
One of his goals is to create more unity to ensure both have equal access to service delivery, he said.
A comprehensive community plan, developed by the community and supported and pushed by chief and council, has been in the works so that there is consistency no matter who is on council, he added.
“My two main objectives are to protect the communities’ interests and provide sound financial accountability. I want chief and council to host more forums so the community can have input and more involvement.”
Harry and his wife, Ariane Alphonse, have two sons — Damian, 10, and Antoine, 7. His grandfather, also Antoine Harry, served on the band council and was chief at one point.