Interior First Nations Grand Chief receives Order of B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior First Nations Grand Chief receives Order of B.C.

Grand Chief Percy Joe is receiving the Order of British Columbia recognition for his outstanding work in his community.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Percy Joe
August 04, 2018 - 6:00 AM

MERRITT - After nearly five decades of serving his community, Grand Chief Percy Joe will receive the province's highest form of recognition for his outstanding work.

Along with 14 others, the retired chief will be appointed to the Order of British Columbia today, Saturday, Aug. 4. Joe was one of 203 British Columbians nominated for this award and, he says there is a lot he's accomplished in his 47 years on council and as chief serving his community, that he is deeply satisfied with.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is the creation of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology," he says. Joe was instrumental in the creation of the post secondary school.

He says it was extremely challenging, but it was a service he wanted to offer the people in his community. It's one of only two schools governed by Indigenous people in Canada.

"At that time, we wanted to ensure our people were able to get an education and are still able to get an education," he says. "We recognized that a lot of our people that wanted an education already had families and were mature adults."

Joe says this led them to create a school close to the community so people were able to stay with their families and receive an education.

"We partnered with British Columbia Institute of Technology, and we put out the first forestry course," he says. "It was held out of the basement in one our band halls and from there it just grew."

The school currently serves approximately 1,400 students and expects to expand even more, Joe says. The retired grand chief says education, and ensuring it was accessible to the people he served, has always been important to him. 

Although it wasn't an easy process to gather funding, he says he is thankful he never gave up.

"It was a long struggle. It's not a rosy path without some thorns," he says. "I always wanted to push education and make sure our members had the opportunity to get it."

Joe says having a strong education background opens the doors for many people.

"I can proudly say...I think out of anywhere in B.C., we have more people with university degrees in our community," he says. "There's a better quality of life when people are well educated."

Joe was also heavily involved with First Nations veterans from the Second World War. Joe served in the Canadian Armed Forces himself for 13 years as a detachment commander and master corporal, and served overseas in the 1960s.

He says when First Nations veterans came back from the Second World War, they didn't get the same services as non-Indigenous veterans.

"They had to go back to the reserve and they didn't belong to the Legion, our members were not allowed to sit with other members," he says, adding he has advocated for equal rights for First Nations veterans so they could get the same health services for issues like PTSD.

"It's different for them to acquire services because of cultural reasons," he says. "We have missed out on a lot of benefits and it's unfortunate."

Joe says he is proud of all the work he's done, but he's humbled to be recognized at a provincial level.

"It's very unexpected," he says. "I look at the list of people that have gotten the Order of B.C., and personally I feel like I don't fit in there."

The ceremony for the 14 recipients of the award will take place on Sept. 20 at the Government House in Victoria.

For a full list of citizens receiving the award go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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