Samantha-Jo Dick is quick to credit the strong women in her family for her success as the executive director of Yeqox Nilin Justice Society.
Dick said she is grateful that her Tsilhqot’in culture thinks highly of women.
“I look back on everything I’ve accomplished and where I am now and I don’t think I would have been there without the women in my family,” she said. “My mom, my sisters, my aunts — they have had a huge impact on my life. They are strong and very independent women.”
Watching her mom complete a master’s degree in education, and witness the successes of other women in her family, have been building blocks for her own life, she added.
In May 1, Williams Lake will be officially opening its new Indigenous Court, something Dick and her administrative assistant, Ann Guichon, have worked hard for.
“Myself and Ann Guichon are both Indigenous women and were a huge part of bringing Indigenous Court to Williams Lake,” she said. “We were able to bring this process, not only to First Nations people in Williams Lake, but in the future that we can tell our nieces, nephews and children, this is what we did.”
A member of Tl’etinqox First Nation, Dick was born in Williams Lake, attended schools in the lakecity, and graduated from Williams Lake Secondary School. Her mom’s family — the Petals — owns a ranch at Tl’etinqox.
“I always knew I wanted to work with youth and went into the Human Services program at TRU, but after a year and half realized it wasn’t what I wanted.”
Taking a year off of school, she applied for a job at Tl’etinqox as the youth worker and soon realized she loved interacting with youth.
In July 2010, she saw a posting for a justice worker position with what was then the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society, now Yeqoz Nilin Justice Society, applied and was hired.
Nine years later in July 2019, she became the executive director, where she said while it’s been a long journey, she feels respected.
“When I started I was 22 years old and I felt like I was seen as a child and what I said wasn’t important. I felt like I had everything against me being First Nations and a women and I could see the look in the eyes of some males eyes that they didn’t appreciate I was outspoken. It was a struggle to find my voice.”
There are a powerful people in the justice system, she added, noting fighting for the right to be heard has been a lot to overcome.
Her position is more than a job, but rather a responsibility to help her people, she said.
“I feel like if I were to leave tomorrow it would completely break my heart because I know we are nowhere near where we need to be for our people who need to heal and grow. The day that I don’t have that many offenders coming through my door is the day I know that we are winning.”