Tsilhqot’in National Government chair Chief Joe Alphonse is one of 16 people appointed to the prestigious Order of British Columbia.
B.C.’s Lt. Gov. Jane Austin, chancellor of the order, announced the recipients on Monday, Aug. 2 in a news release.
Alphonse is serving his seventh term as Chief of Tl’etinqox (Anaham First Nation) and comes from a long line of hereditary leaders.
He was born in Williams Lake and raised in Tl’etinqox.
“I’m honoured and humbled,” he said of being named to the Order of British Columbia. “I have tried to help people and represent them the best way I can and bring forward their wishes.”
He was part of Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) leadership team whose work won the Supreme Court of Canada Aboriginal land title win in 2014.
In 2016, he supported advocating for the exoneration of six Tsilhqot’in chiefs who were unjustly executed for attempting to protect their land during the Chilcotin War of 1864 and 1865.
He has championed support for establishment of the Tsilhqot’in Women’s Council which forms a part of the TNG structure.
Fluent in the Tsilhqot’in language, Alphonse is also frequently invited to give speeches and provide support to other First Nations and said he has tried to impact change not only for his own people, but right across Canada and the world.
With the rights and title win and UNDRIP, First Nations people are starting to see a lot of changes come to light, he added.
“Many First Nations people have experienced huge amounts of trauma from residential school and resulting dysfunction so to move forward with those obstacles has been challenging,” Alphonse said. “Creating hope is one of the most powerful things you can do and being recognized is a huge, huge, honour. I’ve been a small part and I am thankful to those who put my name forward.”
Lt. Gov. Austin said the extraordinary leadership shown by the 16 recipients has been a source of strength for communities across the province.
“In difficult times, they have connected us through art, culture, public service and more. As we move with optimism toward the future, their achievements will be a foundation of success for future generations. It is with great honour I share congratulations to these remarkable individuals.”
Premier John Horgan congratulated the recipients for their leadership and dedication as community leaders.
“Trailblazers in medicine, that carried us through an incredibly difficult pandemic with expertise, grace, and of course, kindness. Inspiring philanthropists, determined protectors of the environment and powerful Indigenous leaders,” Horgan said. “We are truly grateful for your leadership.”
Alphonse and one other recipient were the only ones outside of Vancouver and Victoria to receive the honour.
The other recipients are: Joe Average, MGC, of Vancouver, Brenda Baptiste of Osoyoos, Frances Belzberg, OC, of Vancouver, Dr. Debra Braithwaite of Victoria, Ajay Dilawri of Vancouver, Debra Doucette (Hewson) of the District of North Vancouver, Dr. Bonnie J. Fraser Henry of Victoria, Carol A. Lee of Vancouver, James McEwen, OC, of Vancouver, Andrew Petter, CM, QC, of Victoria, Dolph Schluter of Vancouver, Dr. Poul Sorensen of Vancouver and Arran and Ratana Stephens of Vancouver.
There were 257 nominees in total for this round of the awards.
The late Neil Sterritt of 150 Mile House was named to the Order of British Columbia in 2017 for his work on the Delgumuukw case.