MPP , 2010
From its positon on Google Map, the Thunderchild First Nation is a tiny dot surrounded by vast stretches of featureless landscape broken only by the occasional blue squiggle of a passing river. About a year ago, Jordan Wapass gave up an ocean-side condo in Vancouver’s False Creek neighborhood and an exciting job in West Vancouver to move to that dot.
Wapass is the Director of Operations and a proud member of the Thunderchild First Nation, located near Turtleford, Saskatchewan. He completed a Masters of Public Policy at SFU in 2010.
“I spent my entire life living in cities. It was a culture shock moving to a rural First Nation in the prairies. Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but it was something I had to do—I have always wanted to make a difference for my people. To me that is the most tremendous opportunity there is,” says Wapass.
Wapass explains that some of the pressing issues his community faces include poverty, poor health and inadequate housing. Through his role overseeing the local education system, health department, administration and finance, Wapass hopes to create opportunities that support the community's economic sustainability and help it overcome those challenges.
“The Chief and I were having a chat and he said 'something brought you home. You will know that reason when it presents itself.' I think that reason is to help us get away from our dependence on federal transfers so that we can truly prosper as a people,” says Wapass.
Prior to his current role, Wapass spent five years as a Capacity Development Initiatives Officer with the West Vancouver-based First Nations Financial Management Board. Working with First Nations across Canada, he supported Indigenous communities to strengthen their governance and financial management in order to gain access to the capital markets and create economic development opportunities. Wapass is now working to help his home Nation do the same by starting from within.
“I told my staff at our very first meeting that if we want to make change than we need think internally. We can’t create stakeholder confidence if our house isn’t in order. It’s small things like showing up on time to show that you respect the job and the community,” he says.
Wapass points to his SFU graduate school training as a key to his current work helping his nation not only survive, but thrive.
“One of the most useful skills I gained during the program was the ability to synthesize and communicate information in a palatable form. In my role now I have to interpret information quickly to make decisions,” he says.
- Written by Jackie Amsden and Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows
Published in 2015