After more than two decades in service to his people, Grand Chief Doug Kelly said his life belongs to him again.
“I chaired my last event Friday,” Kelly said.
It was one of his last official tasks as president and tribal chief of the Stó:lō Tribal Council. He chaired the Dec. 11 annual general meeting which saw the election of Darwin Douglas, Alexis Grace, and Tyrone McNeil as new tribal chiefs.
The election gave Grand Chief Kelly pause to look back on his lengthy career of service, including four stints as chief of Soowahlie First Nation, as well as being elected tribal chief in 2004.
Other jobs and titles came in the years that followed with the First Nations Summit, First Nations Health Council, First Nations Fisheries Council, Stó:lō Nation and the B.C. Treaty Commission.
He played a key role in the Stó:lō Health Transfer, Stó:lō Child Welfare, and other programs including fisheries and economic development.
“I learned a lot, I travelled a lot, and I’m feeling good about what I had a hand in doing,” Kelly said. “I was blessed by the people.”
He’s happy and excited about what’s in store for the tribal council, and its new trio of chiefs. The three were elected to represent the eight member nations of the tribal council: Chawathil, Cheam, Kwantlen, Kwaw-kwaw-Apilt, Scowlitz, Seabird Island, Shxw’ow’hamel, and Soowahlie.
One project he’ll still be working on is recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction for children and families.
“One of the priorities has been reclaiming jurisdiction for our matriarchs,” Kelly said.
He’s also been doing some work around systemic racism in health care.
On Dec. 11, 2020, he posted a social media message in the wake of the election at the AGM, expressing his congratulations and gratitude for the newly elected tribal chiefs:
“I woke refreshed, rested and ecstatically happy this morning.
“For the past twenty-years, my life belonged to the people. Today, my life now belongs to my dearest wife, Sherry, our collective brood of six adult children, and eight grandchildren.
“My life belongs to me again,” Kelly shared.
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