As she embarks on her second consecutive term as chief of Ulkatcho First Nation (UFN), Lynda Price wants to hear from her community.
“I’m hoping we will be able to re-evaluate the UFN strategic priorities and I’ve asked administration staff to set up a time for us to meet with our community and identify some of the important things they would like to prioritize,” she told Black Press Media. “I know I have a few things that I want to complete, but I want to make sure they are in line with the community priorities.”
There are close to 1,100 band members on the list, which gets updated regularly.
After she and council were elected on June 22, 2019, one of the important steps was to fill vacant positions at Ulkatcho.
Staff were hired for all the UFN’s programs and directors were put in place for education, health, child and family and social development. An assets manager to oversee the community’s infrastructure and housing, a finance director and an operations manager were also hired.
“A lot of positions were not filled (in the past) for various reasons. I think at the time there were postings, but due to our remote location it was really difficult to find someone that wanted to live in a rural community such as ours.”
A second issue was the shortage of housing.
“We had a number of hurdles to overcome before we could get people in place,” Price added. “Now the positions are filled and we are really grateful.”
Price said UFN has a strategic plan but it needs to be reviewed and its objectives need to be updated.
Once that’s completed chief and council can develop an action plan and base the budgeting process to meet those objectives.
“That is so we don’t set ourselves up for failure.”
Price has also asked the operations manager to set up a UFN event similar to a community fair so all of the community members can see what services UFN provides for them. Community members will be encouraged to provide input about what needs to be change and where the gaps are so they can be properly addressed.
“My short two-year term I spent most of it getting the staff in place and bringing our finance department up to date,” she said. “We had a lot of work there in the finance department I must say. It took us quite a while to get things in order in that department.”
The next focus will be to ensure the budgeting cycle is in line with the needs of the community.
UFN, similar to many Indigenous communities in Canada, has a housing shortage.
However, Price said the nation is unique because it has eight major families that live in various parts of the nation’s traditional territory.
Historically in the mid-1940s, Indian Affairs established a residential school in Naquatloo (Anahim Lake) and brought all the children there.
Traditionally, each family group has a keyoh area, but most of the families eventually moved from their keyoh area to Naquatloo, which is the keyoh of the Squinas family, she explained.
“If you go through our territory, each (keyoh) area belongs to a certain family because that is where they hunted, gathered and trapped. There are certain parts of our territory where we would gather together.”
Presently UFN is working with the federal government for reconciliation, to work together to re-establish the language and culture within traditional lands and the homes in the keyoh areas.
Price has set up a meeting with Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to fulfill that vision.
“We have subdivisions here right now, but many of the families want to build down in their home land and don’t want to be living in a subdivision when they have hectares of land. They want to reconnect with their children and grandchildren.”
The connector road to Vanderhoof continues to be a priority, as well, and fits with the development of the keyho areas, she added.
There are a number of reasons UFN wants the road. It would provide better access to the hospital and university in Prince George, hay during rainy season, and allow for supplies for things to be transported for construction.
“Another important one is when there are fires in the area and we need another escape route,” Price said. “I remember when the road to Bella Coola was blocked off with the slide on the switchback and there was a fire just past Tatla Lake. One of our elders was on kidney dialysis and she was in a bad place.”
Young people in the community are excited about the keyohs being re-established as well as the connector road, she noted.
Plans are underway to relocate the Ulkatcho Mercantile Store from its current location on the main IR to Highway 20 on IR14A.
The new store will have a gas bar, car wash, little coffee shop and an electric vehicle charger.
“We are excited about that. We’ve got our lease arrangements there in order and we’ve got our development plans for the building and have a working group setting out the time frame for when we can start building.”
As for the achievements of her son and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, she is very proud.
“I just love and so enjoy watching him play. I’m so proud of him.”
She plans to hopefully watch some of the final games in person, she added.
Price’s maiden name is Holte.
She was born in Bella Coola and raised at Lessard Lake where her family had a ranch, close to Anahim Lake.
Her grandfather was Ulkatcho Chief Domas Squinas.
“I never say I’m a chief of South Dakelh because I’m not,” Price said. “I’m a chief of a mix of a sui generis community which is Nuxalk, Carrier and Tsilhqot’in.”