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Williams Lake Chief Willie Sellars honoured for reconciliation efforts

Office of the Lieutenant Governor, BC Achievement Foundation announce 2023 Reconciliation Awards
Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) Chief Willie Sellars dances during the grand entry at the WLFN Speaking Our Truth Pow Wow held in 2022. (Angie Mindus file photo)

Chief Willie Sellars of Williams Lake First Nation is being recognized for his leadership and committment in furthering reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in B.C.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, in partnership with BC Achievement Foundation, announced the recipients of the third British Columbia Reconciliation Award Wednesday, July 12.

The award recognizes four extraordinary individuals and two organizations that have demonstrated “exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia, or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts.”

Individual recipients:

* Dr. Danièle Behn Smith (Victoria)

* Chief Willie Sellars (Williams Lake)

* Klith-waa-taa, Dr. Barney Williams (Campbell River)

* Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn (Burnaby)

Organization recipients:

* Last Post Fund - BC Branch (Burnaby)

* The Exploration Place & Lheidli T’enneh First Nation (Prince George)

“Reconciliation acts as the cornerstone for fostering meaningful connections and bridging the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. By acknowledging the historical injustices and illuminating transformative actions, we inspire others to tread the same path,” said Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers, a member of the board of BC Achievement. “As we enter the third year of the British Columbia Reconciliation Award, we continue to shine a light on empowering approaches that allow Indigenous Peoples to flourish while positively impacting all communities. On behalf of BC Achievement, we take great pride in announcing and commending the accomplished recipients of the 2023 awards. Congratulations to the awardees, and heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering commitment to our shared journey of reconciliation.”

BC Achievement Foundation has several established programs honouring excellence and inspiring achievement throughout British Columbia, including the Indigenous Business Award and the First Nations Art Award.

“For the third year of the BC Reconciliation Award, I continue to be inspired by the impact and meaning of the achievements of the 2023 recipients, and across all nominations,” said the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. “The recipients demonstrate commitment to community, education, and recognizing the challenges of the past while honouring those who came before us. They are an inspiration to me, and to all British Columbians, in their call to do the hard work of reconciliation and support its transformative power to create real change. As always, I am incredibly honoured to be a champion of this award, and to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 recipients with British Columbians.”

Austin has chosen reconciliation as one of the key priorities of her mandate. This commitment includes participation in promotion of public awareness of the ongoing journey of reconciliation and developing a legacy through the creation of this award.

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the B.C. legislature buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward. In honour of this legacy, this year’s recipients will receive a print of a canoe paddle designed by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Jamie Gentry to commemorate the award. Gentry is the Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist recipient of the 2022 First Nations Art Award.

The 2023 recipients of the BC Reconciliation Award will be recognized in a ceremony held at Government House in Victoria in the new year.

The selection committee for the 2023 British Columbia Reconciliation Award, including representation from Indigenous Elders and leadership, is:

* p̓i·q̓, Dr. Christopher Horsethief - Ktunaxa Nation

* T’esóts’en, Patrick Kelly - Leq’á:mel Nation

* Nicole McLaren - Métis Nation

* Cloy-e-iis, Dr. Judith Sayers - Hupacasath Nation

* T,łalisam, Dr. Kim van der Woerd - ‘Namgis Nation

* Chief/Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir - Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc

* Xyolholemo:t, Brenda Crabtree - member of the Spuzzum Band with Nlaka’pamux and Sto:Lo ancestry

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