It was a difficult and challenging but important 2021 for Lheildi T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan.
Elected on April 8, Logan is the first female chief to lead the nation since back in 1969 when Mary Pius was elected.
“I have some huge shoes to fill,” said Logan, adding that the first few months of her first term flew by. “It was exciting to be the second female chief in 50 years, especially during COVID.”
Logan previously served six years as a band councillor, and now as chief, she's recently had the opportunity to oversee the culmination of 30 years of work.
In December, the First Nation filed for a specific claim regarding the sale and destruction of Lheidli T’enneh’s original village site in 1913.
The original village site is located where Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park (LTMP) is now and after it was sold in the fall of 1913, the remaining members of Lheidli were forced off the village against their will, removed from their homes and the village was burnt to the ground.
“All the information, all the gathering, the lawyer, everything, it has been a long journey and we are finally able to submit,” said Logan, adding that the Nation's lawyer is expected to make a video update for community members.
A specific claim is a federal government process regarding historical wrongs committed by the government against First Nations. This includes illegal alienations of Indigenous lands or mismanagement of Indigenous assets.
The Government of Canada works with First Nations to resolve outstanding specific claims through negotiated settlements and the process provides a way to resolve disputes outside of the court system.
“It will take up to two years to process but two years is nothing compared to the decades leading up to it,” said Logan. “But It is an accomplishment for the First Nation to finally have it submitted.”
Further healing for Lheidli T’enneh will come in the spring when the Nation breaks ground on its new daycare centre located in LTMP right beside the Exploration Place.
“That is another exciting thing because it’s our original village site,” said Logan. “To bring actual life back into the park from a child’s point of view – and their laughter, that is what the park needs. My mum is buried there and I know she would love to have kids there being kids.”
Logan said it will be called Daycare at the Park and have a Lheidli T’enneh influence in terms of teaching language and culture.
“But I’d imagine we’d be teaching a whole pile of stuff in there because the museum is going to be right there,” added Logan.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it has also been a big year for the Lheidli T’enneh in terms of its relationship with local industry.
In September, the nation took over its own logging company and in October signed an MOU with Arbios and Canfor who are developing a biofuel plant in Prince George.
“We have so much more coming down the line for next year,” said Logan. “I know to our band members it doesn’t look like it but inside the wheels are turning.”
She says the Lheildi T’enneh has a lot coming down the line in terms of green businesses and forestry and is expecting to make some big announcements in the spring.
“We are the stewards of the land and this is what we have done for thousands of years,” said Logan, of Lheidli Tenneh’s interest in green business ventures.
“Climate change is huge. Climate change is here and we have to do something."
Logan said although band elections only run on two-year cycles, she is trying to put things into place that will have a lasting impact.
“This year has absolutely flown by because there’s always something that is going and going,” said Logan.
“What I am planning for is the future for Lheidli T’enneh, not for the next year or two but for 50 years down the road. It’s long-term thinking.”
But Logan says one of the things she’s most excited about is getting the nation's elders society back, which was on hold due to the pandemic.
“One of the things I wanted to do from the very beginning is have the elders meetings but COVID kept shutting us down, so now we are finally meeting in smaller groups and we are bringing stuff to the elders for their advice and direction.”
One of the things the elders have decided is the yet-to-be-revealed name for Lheidli Tenneh’s new health centre, which will be completed sometime in February.
Construction of the long-awaited health centre has also been delayed due to the pandemic. Logan said the health centre will be a safe place for members to go in the face of the racism that Indigenous people often encounter in the healthcare system.
“It is going to mean a lot.,” said Logan. “It is going to be a safe place to go and see a doctor and to go and see a nurse and to see a therapist. It is a safe place.”
Lheidli T’enneh will also begin 2022 with an official end to its 215-day mourning period in honour of the children found buried at the former Kamloops Residential School and the thousand of other discoveries made across Canada this year.
On Tuesday, Jan. 4. Lheidli T’enneh will host a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall at 2:15 p.m. where Lheidli T’enneh will raise a new flag that features an orange ribbon in the lower right corner serving to continually honour the memory of children who died at residential schools.
It's a topic that Logan still finds difficult to speak about.
“The discovery in Kamloops, it halted everybody,” said Logan, reflecting on that day in May just a few months into her term as chief.
Logan said that despite the pandemic she is hopeful that 2022 will bring an opportunity for healing and gathering again for big events like community meetings, National Indigenous People’s Day and the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.