Chief Willie Sellars’ leadership embodies integrity, respect, and a commitment to furthering reconciliation. His efforts inspire others to participate in the collective journey of healing and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. A member of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) of the Secwepemc Nation, Willie was first elected to WLFN Council in 2008. After serving on WLFN Council for a decade, he was elected as Chief in 2018 and is currently in his second term of office. Both as a WLFN employee and an elected official, Willie advocates for reconciliation, recognizing the need for healing from the impacts of colonialism, residential schools, and the Indian Act.
Willie recognizes that building relationships and partnerships in business creates an avenue for reconciliation. His negotiation of three impact benefit agreements with local mines generated employment opportunities and community revenues used to fund programs for WLFN youth, elders, and vulnerable individuals. As Chief and chief negotiator, Willie concluded the first government-to-government agreement under section 119 of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, resulting in the establishment of WLFN’s Unity Cannabis retail chain. WLFN Cannabis enterprises employ more than 50 people, the majority of whom are Indigenous.
Willie works tirelessly to improve governance in his community transitioning WLFN to sectoral self-government over lands with the implementation of a Land Code under the First Nations Land Management Act and a Financial Administration Law pursuant to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. The last five years have been transformative for WLFN, with more than $40 million in capital projects and development taking place on WLFN lands during that term.
Working collaboratively with other orders of government, the public and the Catholic Church, Willie played a key role in the investigation of the former residential school at St. Joseph’s Mission. He recognizes that the revitalization of culture and language is key in addressing the impacts of colonization and residential schools. Willie and his Council have made substantial investments in programs and infrastructure to reconnect the community with Secwepemc (Shuswap) roots using a youth focus. In 2022, WLFN held its first competitive powwow.
Willie always strives for the betterment of his people, writing children’s books, dancing in powwows, playing competitive sports, and engaging in various other community initiatives, and promoting unity and mutual respect among all Canadians.