Roxanne Harris has been elected as the new Chief for Stz’uminus First Nation in the 2020 election, held on August 27.
Harris received 222 votes, edging out George Seymour who received 167 votes. Harris will take over as Chief from John Elliott, who has served as Chief of Stz’uminus since 2009.
“It was to see John go,” Harris said. “He did a great job leading our nation, and his work won’t go unrecognized. He’s left a great mark on our community, and left some big shoes to fill.”
Harris has lived in Stz’uminus territory for her entire life. She graduated with a Dogwood Certificate in 1992 from Ladysmith Secondary School. She went on to attend UBC and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Education; she also completed a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Vancouver Island University.
She has served as the vice president of the First Nations Schools Association, sat on the Provincial Child Care Council for three years, and has served as a Stz’uminus council for three consecutive terms.
“I’ve really watched John over the years. Not only myself, but all the councillors, mentored under him. We know that leadership role. When we make decisions it’s as a team. Even though I’m now the Chief, I’m not greater than anyone else – my vote is the same as the other nine members of council,” Harris said.
Her top priorities as Chief include the continued economic development of Stz’uminus, education, housing, water supply, language, and cultural revitalization.
“Our goal, ultimately, is to be a self sufficient nation,” Harris said. “A solid foundation has already been laid down by the previous Chief and council.
With her experience as an educator, Harris is looking at innovative approaches to education for Stz’uminus youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic is changing the environment in education right now. This is an opportunity for us where we may be able to explore outdoor learning, and go back to our traditional ways of being,” Harris said.
“We’re thinking outside the box, enhancing education, and trying weave in our culture wherever we can.”
Throughout the pandemic, there has not been a single recorded case of COVID-19 within Stz’uminus First Nation. Chief and council enacted a Community Guardians program early on in the pandemic that sought to limit the amount of visitors travelling through Stz’uminus territory.
Harris said the Community Guardians program will continue until the end of September – however council can decide to extend the program based on information from public health officials.
Harris will serve with councillors: Timothy Harris, Arthur Jim, Terry Sampson, Gertrude Seymour, Gregory Seymour, Herb Seymour, Margaret Seymour, Peter Seymour, and Shawna Seymour.
The new Chief and Council will be sworn in at a ceremony some time in the near future.
Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone extended his well wishes to Harris and Elliott via Facebook following the election.
“Congratulations to new Stz’uminus First Nation Chief Roxanne Harris and all new and returning SFN council members,” Stone said.
“Also a big, heartfelt shout out to retiring Chief John Elliott and council members not returning this term. I have so much gratitude and thanks for all of the progress that has been made. It has been an honour to be working with each of you these past years. So much has been accomplished in Stz’uminus. Stand tall. I look forward to building on this work together with new Chief Harris and Council.”