Roxanne Lindley, FIRST WOMAN CHIEF of Westbank First Nation
WHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY'S REACTION WHEN YOU WERE ELECTED?
My husband and I live in Cherryville and he was instrumental in pushing for me to be elected. When I was elected, suddenly, I'm gone Monday to Friday. We were together 30 years, now we have a weekend romance and get to date again. It was a big change for my kids, too.
There was some excitement and some apprehension. I think they were looking at where I was prior to being elected. I was retired, travelling and living my own life. There is a lot of support out there.
BEING THE FIRST WOMAN CHIEF, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR WOMEN?
I believe that with the women in our community, they've seen that anything is possible. If you have it in you to dream, you have it in you to succeed. I've interacted with some of the professional business women from Westbank and there was a lot of emotion. I was quite surprised about the reaction of non-native women coming up to me, hugging, crying and saying that I made such a difference. My little granddaughter, she writes about me in school and how I'm in an inspiration to her.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH POLITICS?
My love of politics started when I was really young. My dad was the first elected chief of Westbank First Nations in the early 1960s.
I grew up with him being really politically active, I think it was quite natural for me to step into politics.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT IN THE OFFICE?
When I leave here, I go home to Cherryville. It's there where I get grounded. I vacuum, I do laundry and look after my animals. I fi nd being able to go home and wear my pajamas until noon is nice. I appreciate those two days of the week when I can have time for myself and my husband.
WHAT ARE YOUR THREE BEST TRAITS?
I would think that compassion is the most important thing I carry. I think humility is critical and honesty.
DO YOU THINK THESE THREE TRAITS HELP YOU AS CHIEF?
I think when you step into any elected role, you must always be comfortable putting yourself and your own personal thoughts on the backburner. Everything I do now is for the betterment of Westbank First Nation members. It's very much about representing the people.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN TO BE INVOLVED IN POLITICS?
Most indigenous societies are matriarchal and I think it's critical that we get our women elected as councillors and chiefs. We have the gift to nurture. We can nurture the whole community. I can care about the 10,000 plus non-native residents living on the reserve. We are multi-taskers. I think that's the gift women bring.
IF YOU COULD ASK THE PRIME MINISTER ONE QUESTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would want to speak to him specifically about truth and reconciliation and the role of the government and their concept of what truth and reconciliation is. I had an opportunity last year to go to Auschwitz. Do you want to see truth?
That's where you see truth. That's where you see the reconciliation. That's where you see that horrible part of history that no one is trying to hide. I would want to talk about those truths and I would want that part of history to be put out there because for true healing we all need to cry together. I'd also talk to him about pipelines and how critical water is.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I really like being a grandmother. I think for me that's probably the greatest gift that I could ever have or want to have. I get to see my kids in my grandchildren. I get to see myself in my grandchildren and I really love all of them. I felt really fulfi lled even before being elected just because I'm a grandma and that's my role.
WHERE DO YOU GO WHEN YOU'RE HAVING A BAD DAY?
I get a lot of peace, comfort and healing from the water. I think that goes back to when we were kids and how we were raised with a lot of cultural activities. Th e water was also so critical for cleansing and purifi cation.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST IN 2017?
Creating accountability and transparency as a government. I really believe we have the capability with this chief and council to have a very functional government. A government that can embrace the needs of the community. We can enhance all the lives of our community members, native or non-native.
WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'D GIVE TO WOMEN?
I would tell women to embrace their female side. Embrace their gentleness. Embrace the nurturing because there's a need for it. It doesn't matter whether you enter politics or are a nurse, principal or the mayor of West Kelowna, you would need to be able to embrace and accept all. No judgement. I think to have unconditional respect is a really beautiful thing and I would like to see a lot more of that.