Lenora Joe's name will once again be on a shíshálh Nation election ballot. On Feb. 18, Joe, whose ancestral name is yalxwemult, will be joining incumbent Warren Paull and newcomer Shiloh Joe in the race to become hiwus (Chief). Ten candidates are also in the running for the four councillor positions.
For yalxwemult, it was her concern for Elders that prompted her to run for election again.
In an interview, yalxwemult said programs and services for Elders such as the home support program were terminated without a replacement option. She’s heard frustration from Elders, and tells them, “This is unacceptable. Regardless of what we're doing and what we're working on in our Nation, our Elders are our priority. They're our most valuable assets when it comes to everything. People need to understand that and respect that and ensure that they're in a good place.”
As she speaks with community members about the upcoming election, yalxwemult has also heard concerns about the evacuation notices issued to some residences on Sinku Drive.
“I've been trying to reassure all of those homeowners that, if elected, that will come to a halt. It's never my intention to evict a band member. We have such a shortage on housing, that that totally would be the last last resort. We'd have to have something in place to rehome them if that was going to be the case.”
yalxwemult also wants to see the geotechnical report on that area.
Since she was 16, yalxwemult says, she’s attended every general meeting. She was told by her grandparents to stand up and ask questions. Now, she wants answers.
yalxwemult was first elected to shíshálh Nation council in 1987 when she was 27 years old. She was part of the group that signed the initial agreement with Lehigh. Since then, yalxwemult was an education and homeschool coordinator, and the recreation, culture and language coordinator for the school district, before becoming an education liaison. She also served two terms on the school board as an elected trustee. Before her retirement in 2018, she held several positions in the Nation’s administration.
When yalxwemult ran as a candidate for hiwus in the 2020 election, incumbent hiwus Warren Paull defeated her by six votes. In a recent by-election, Philip Paul was elected to council over yalxwemult. While she did not intend to run again after two recent losses, yalxwemult said she’s getting the push from the community.
“The only thing that I'm hoping is people are starting to recognize or see what potential damage could happen in the future if we continue making decisions without consultation,” she said.
She asks herself, “How do we bring our community together and pull as one instead of everybody in their own canoe going in their own direction, which is fine in a sense. People can do that, but there's some things that we do need to come together as a community.”
yalxwemult said she’s heard from community members who feel they’re being left out of communications and decision-making. “There's a concern if there's no communication, where's the accountability and transparency in decisions that are being made?”
“I want to make sure that our community is in a place where we're going to prosper and I have some concerns about how our governance is operating,” she said. “The main document that we adhere to is our constitution and right now it feels like our constitution …is being used sometimes and not all the time.”
When asked how she would provide communication and transparency if she were elected, yalxwemult spoke of her years in education when she would engage with people at the grocery store, while driving the bus, and watching soccer games — where she was approached, she listened.
“I do understand economic development. That's something that we're always going to try and pursue and make our Nation more wealthy and independent. However, that still does need to go through the community,” she said.
yalxwemult wants to make herself available to shíshálh Nation members, who can reach her at email@example.com, 604-989-4192 or on Facebook.