Selina August, a shíshálh Nation councillor, poses for a portrait after a round of negotiations as part of the Day Scholars Class Action Suit in Vancouver on Thursday, June 8, 2017. 

Selina August began her career at Vancouver’s office of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, travelling widely to serve the needs of British Columbia’s 198 First Nations.

One day, August’s supervisor recommended she work for her own community in shíshálh (Sechelt). Only then could she find true compassion.

August was hesitant. Her government position had great pay and benefits — why leave?

“I realized the government was always going to be there,” she says. “And it would be more rewarding to advocate on behalf of our Nation and future generations.”

Learning the voice

August moved back home. She enrolled in Sechelt Nation Language and Culture classes at Capilano University’s Sunshine Coast campus, which helped her appreciate her roots.

“I felt like I was getting my identity back,” she says. “I’ve always been proud of being shíshálh but learning where we come from and how our ancestors survived was amazing.”

August began working as the executive secretary for the Sechelt Chief and Council. She quickly learned the organizational structures, department roles, and impact of leadership decisions on the community.

“It was one of the best learning experiences because I was right in the middle of it all,” she says.

However, August didn’t have a voice at the table. She wanted to change that.

Becoming the voice

August enrolled in CapU’s Bachelor of Business Administration program, where she advanced her leadership skills and then applied her knowledge in the workplace.

“The courses played a significant role in who I am today because I use all of the tools and resources that I learned,” she says.

August soon began overseeing the Nation’s lease lands. She was elected to the Sechelt Band Housing Authority and then ran for councillor — she recalls taking a course on municipal government at the time.

“During the time of nomination, we were discussing issues like, what does a councillor do and how do they make decisions that are fair to the entire community,” she says. “When I participated in the all-candidates forum I used all of that information.”

In April 2017, August was elected councillor, overseeing the entire Nation.

Creating change

Only a few months into her role, August is already having an impact. She is dedicated to engaging her community members to ensure trust, transparency and accountability.

Her biggest highlight is representing the Sechelt Nation in the Day Scholar Class Action Suit, a case that hopes to bring justice for former day scholars of residential schools.

“Being a part of this is so rewarding because we are fighting for many nations across Canada,” August says. “Sometimes it still doesn’t register because the magnitude of it all is huge.”

Looking back, August credits her mother who raised three children after the early death of her father.

“I am who I am because of my commitment and drive for educational success,” August says. “But I have so much gratitude for my mother who supported me on my journey.”

Submitted by Taehoon Kim, Communications & Marketing

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