Why First Nations need more leaders like Crystal Smith – by Gary Mason (Globe and Mail – January 12, 2019)


“We want our people out of poverty,” Ms. Smith told me. “We are tired of managing poverty.”

When Crystal Smith considers the current pipeline dispute involving the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, she strains to hear the voices of those she believes matter most: the Wet’suwet’en people. It is true. As it so often is in standoffs of this nature.

We hear from politicians, hereditary chiefs, elected First Nations leaders, but we seldom hear from those in the community whose futures are affected most by decisions around resource development.

“They are the forgotten people in this situation,” Ms. Smith, the 39-year-old elected chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation, told me this week. “They are the only ones that can solve this dispute; not governments, not the courts. It’s the people in the community.”

Ms. Smith represents a new generation of aboriginal leadership in British Columbia, one that is young, educated and willing to challenge shibboleths that have held native communities in Canada back for decades. She is far from a cultural sellout, however. She says the role that hereditary chiefs play in safeguarding the values and traditions inside aboriginal communities is a sacred one.

Elders define what being Haisla is. But nor does she believe that these same chiefs are the last word whenever a big issue arises. That, she says, belongs to the people of the community.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-why-first-nations-need-more-leaders-like-crystal-smith/

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