After eight years as chief for Yunesit’in First Nation, Russell Myers Ross will not be seeking re-election as the community heads to the polls next month.
Thirty-eight-year-old Myers Ross has decided to take a step back from leadership to focus on his health and family.
“It’s sad for me,” he told Black Press at the community approximately 90 kilometres west of Williams Lake. “I’ve had a lot of conflicted emotions about it but I think the community and the Tsilhqot’in Nation are in good hands right now, and I’m happy to leave at this point knowing that things will continue.”
Elected chief in 2012, Myers Ross calls himself an anomaly as he did not grow up in Yunesit’in.
“I knew family and I visited here, but I wasn’t someone who grew up and knew every person from the community,” he said. “I had to develop that over the eight years.”
Myers Ross graduated with his master’s degree in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria in 2010 after having completed his thesis on a traditional Tsilhqot’in story called Salmon Boy in which a boy learned how to return home after having fallen into the river and being turned into a fish.
He had not given politics much thought prior to his election, and credits his late uncle and former chief Ivor Myers for encouraging him to put his name forward in 2012.
“I didn’t know where we were going to be at to be honest,” Myers Ross said. “I had no crystal ball and I’m really happy with what we’ve done but I feel like there is so much more to do.”
Among the projects Myers Ross will leave to his successor to see the completion of with council are the building of a gas bar and feasibility study for Deer Creek Ranch. Myers-Ross said the community also hopes to explore the possibility of redeveloping the former site of Lee’s Corner which was destroyed by wildfire in 2017.
“For me, I can only work with people that are willing to give just as much effort into being honest and caring and taking care of the people and themselves,” he said, noting he hopes the Indigenous Fire Management Program which he was able to pilot last year and receive three-years of funding for will continue.
“For myself it was always about trying to maintain the core team and then trying to develop outwards so that whatever we do other people can take on inspiration or take on what we’ve started.”
Despite taking a break from politics, Myers-Ross said it doesn’t mean he will not make a return at some point.
He said he hopes to be able to have some role in the development of Dasiqox Tribal Park —an area separate and distinct from Tsilhqot’in title lands located 125 kilometers southwest of Williams Lake.
A new chief will be elected Sept. 9.