Chief Donald Sam sworn in on April 1

By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chief Donald Sam officially became the new ?Akisq’nuk Chief on Apr. 1 after the votes were tallied from the election in early March. 

“I was sworn in on April Fools,” ?Akisq’nukChief Donald Sam lightheartedly jokes who took over the honoured role from former Chief Ryan Nicholas. “I’m very humbled to be recognized by such strong voices.” Nicholas’ term just recently came to an end, and it was Alfred Joseph who held the role of chief before him. Former Chief Ryan Nicholas did not seek re-election this time around. Chief Donald Sam first became a member of council in 2014 when he finished off the term for Stephen Nicholas. Then, after a short hiatus, he came back to office in 2016.

 The democratic election process within the ?Akisq’nuk First Nation encourages nominations for potential council members. There is a time span of about one to two months between the initial nominations and the candidate forum on election day. “This is our opportunity to share who we are, and what we stand for,” says ?Akisq’nuk Chief Donald Sam. Election day took place in early March of this year. 

“This election that we just had, the candidates Darcy Fisher, Allan Nicholas and I all found positions with council.” In another two years, we will have another election for two more positions,” said Chief Donald Sam. “This last election everyone was allowed to cast one vote to determine who would be chief.”

Chief Donald Sam says he is very excited to be stepping into this role and the difference he aims to make. In a prior term, Chief Donald Sam worked on the housing committee where he was able to build new homes and ensure adequate housing opportunities for community members. 

“Community healing is very important to me whether it be mental-wellness or just supporting each other,” says Chief Sam. 

Chief Donald Sam expresses that, as a member of the Ktunaxa Nation in the community of ?Akisq’nuk, the issue of rights and titles of land as well as economic development is of high importance. 

Sam’s five-member council consists of his fellow running-mates as well as Lillian Rose and Rosemary Phillips.

“I think we have some strong individuals, so I’m really excited about working with this team, and making some progress for the community,” says Chief Sam. Something else on the horizon which Chief Don Sam is looking forward to, is recruiting more staff members and having the opportunity to engage with them. “The goal is to have a full complement of staff, so that everyone is supporting each other.” Job postings can be found on the ?Akisq’nuk website.

While COVID kept people disconnected physically, Chief Donald Sam expresses how it forced people to learn how to connect through technology with apps like Zoom. He shares being able to connect with communities that are far away through this means of technology is a special thing. 

Chief Donald Sam shares that chief and council have many diverse issues on the go at any point in time; from child and family issues, to mending social fabric, balancing budgets, capital developments, challenging government status quo, to providing visions for their community and Nation. “I’m hoping we can let people know who we are, and where we come from,” says Chief Donald Sam. “I want to be able to empower community members while having that fair transparent process, and policy that’s engaging.” 

These topics were the focus of Chief Sam’s previous term, and he is looking at getting right back into it. Chief Donald Sam states, “One of my main goals is to be inviting and have people participating in the community.”