Community was the theme as Chad Eneas, newly-elected chief of the Penticton Indian Band, gathered with supporters Friday for his first press conference.
“It is not all just about me. I have been on council before and it is hard work, the tireless days, the time away from family. Sometime you are put in a hard spot to deal with things,” said Eneas, adding that others worked as hard to support the band, but didn’t always get the spotlight.
Read more: Eneas elected chief of Penticton Indian Band
“Throughout that community, there are a number of people that continually give and give and are a part of the community activities that are not in council. They are not working for the band but they volunteer and they contribute. I really want to say we recognize all of those people that aren’t in front of the camera, that aren’t at the important meetings but they are here for our children.
“It’s a team effort and I hope to be a really big part of the team.”
Tracey Bonneau, who worked with Eneas at the En’owkin Centre, shared some of her friend’s background. Eneas is well-known outside the PIB as a bullrider, but is a past member of band council, and was also president of the PIB Development Corporation.
“He is very humble in terms of his skill set, but he has had a desk job for the last seven years. He operates the Ecommunity Place, the outdoor classroom, all of the work that is done in the background. He created a business plan for us for all of those activities,” said Bonneau, talking about Eneas’ work at En’owkin. “We are going to miss him, in terms of all his business skills and people skills, it is going to be a great asset to the band. I know that he wouldn’t say that for himself, because he is very humble.”
Eneas said his first job is to get acclimated to his new role.
“Now I am really just trying to keep my feet on the ground, I have a lot of reading to do and a lot of learning to see where we are at in the process of developments we have right now that are ongoing,” he said. “I hope to be part of moving our community closer, building a stronger community and building strategic partnerships and alliances that are in line with our values.”
Eneas also spoke about working together to create a safer community, especially for the women.
“The women in our community, they are the ones that have sacrificed so much for our community,” he said. “I will do what I can so you feel safe and protected. For all the women in the community, there shouldn’t be fear; I hope to be part of that positive change.”
Making sure the community is involved in the process is a key part of Eneas’ outlook.
“The process we are talking about is strengthening community engagement, so more people can participate in the planning and implementation of a lot of the things that are going on. We share the responsibility, the onus isn’t on one small group to do everything,” said Eneas. “Hopefully everyone can find a purpose in contributing to something greater than themselves.”
During the election campaign, Eneas spoke about creating councils for elders, men, women and youth as a culturally appropriate way of including more voices in decision-making.
“The responsibility is shared, the more participation and collaboration we can do within our own community is going to generate more transparency and inclusion,” he said. “I think that is a really big part of who we are as a band and a nation.”
Building partnerships remains a part of looking to the future, and Eneas expects the band to be engaged in a strategic manner when anyone is looking at doing anything in the territory.
“We are open to those partnerships and we want to be the strongest partner at the table. I think we are,” said Eneas.
Adam Eneas, hereditary chief and a former elected chief of council, was one of the new chief’s supporters.
“We all look to the future, we all think there is much to be done, and we all know that we have to do that together,” said the hereditary chief. “This team effort is something we all want to espouse and we want to nurture and develop for the good of our community.”
That goes for the community “across the river,” as he put it.
“If we start developing, it has an effect on them; and we will develop,” said Adam, adding that as long as the band is dependent on government funding, they will not be truly free of colonialism.
“That is my dream that we will attain economic freedom and sovereignty and the strength to carry on,” he said.
Elliot Tonasket, another of Chief Eneas’ supporters, shared a perspective given to him by his late father, likening the building of relationships to building an arched bridge over a river.
“That is essentially what has been going on over these last chief and council terms and also mayor and city council terms. They have been building this bridge towards one another,” said Tonasket, noting that a bridge like that needs more supports the closer you get to the middle.
“Until we can get to that place where we can find that last piece that fits, that connects us, that is when we will really understand how strong we are together and what we leave behind for our children and also the people of the children on the other side of that river,” said Tonasket. “That is what I see happening here today. We are just continuing to build that bridge. Both sides have work to do.”