Charla Huber: Chiefs' display of leadership reflects Indigenous values

Last week, nine First Nations came together to speak in a collective voice against the violence and vandalism occurring in our region.

The First Nations produced and signed a letter that explained the recent acts of vandalism were not the acts of their communities and were not endorsed or supported by them.

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It was powerful to have the Indigenous leaders come together as they did. It was a beautiful display of leadership that was reflective of Indigenous values. The chiefs lead with not only courage, but heart.

The chiefs asked community leaders at the municipal, provincial, and national level to come “stand with them.” Indigenous communities are known for prioritizing a collective community and this was a demonstration of that.

Each of the community leaders invited was sent a copy of the letter. This was important to the chiefs, because they wanted to ensure their guests knew what the message was, and to also let them know that it was a safe place for them to be.

Even with short notice, there were dozens of leaders there in support of the Indigenous communities and the message they were sharing.

On the morning of Friday, July 9, after the elected officials arrived at the Songhees Wellness Centre, they sat in chairs waiting for the event to begin.

As each of the nations’ leaders met and co-ordinated a plan in the lobby, they knew something was not right.

They entered the gym and asked all of the guests to exit the gym, so they could walk in together.

This was one of the most powerful displays of leadership. It was a tangible act that demonstrated the importance of coming together and working, and walking, as one.

The nations asked me to help them co-ordinate the event and assist with communications. I was absolutely honoured that I was trusted to assist with such an important moment.

Last week, I wrote about how disheartening it was to see racist, hateful comments online. The most therapeutic thing I could do in retaliation was to be a part of this event, and put my time and energy into something good.

I have spent a lot of time in Indigenous communities, and many Indigenous leaders and elders have taught me so many valuable lessons. I was not raised in an Indigenous community and the local First Nations here in Greater Victoria have embraced me and shared their culture with me.

The acts I saw with the First Nations coming together is a display of what I know to be true.

The demonstration of leadership in the room from all communities was huge and it really showed me that all our communities in this region want to stand together and work together for common goals.

Premier John Horgan was aware of the event but was out of town and unable to reschedule on short notice. I spoke to him the night before the event.

“Healing can only be achieved by mutual respect and understanding. The last thing we want to do is come apart,” Horgan said.

“With the message in the letter coming from one united voice, it speaks to how passionate the nations are. I respect these leaders, many of them are my friends, and I am proud of them. I would be proud to stand with the leaders.”

charla@makola.bc.ca

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

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