SFU Contributes $200,000 Towards Economic Reconciliation; Hires Sxwpilemaát Siyám of the Squamish Nation

June 21, 2019

SFU Community Economic Development (SFU CED) and the Faculty of Environment are pleased to announce that SFU has chosen our program in Economic Reconciliation as a Strategic Initiatives Priority Project (SIPP) for the University. This selection is accompanied by a generous two-year, $200,000 award for hiring Indigenous staff and engaging in direct community work for reconciliation.

SFU CED’s first action under this initiative has been to hire Sxwpilemaát Siyám (also known as Chief Leanne Joe) of the Squamish Nation as our “Transformational Storyteller for Economic Reconciliation”. Sxwpilemaát is an alumna of the SFU CED Certificate Program in Community Economic Development, and is a long-time community leader (see bio below). Her role at SFU CED will be to engage in thought leadership for economic reconciliation across the province of BC, and to work with stakeholders in communities to transform their economic relationships with Indigenous residents. She will also serve as an advisor to the CED program to both Indigenize the curriculum and support the hiring of additional Indigenous staff and instructors.

In fall of 2019, SFU CED will be organizing a workshop to develop a framework for economic reconciliation with partners across the province. The workshop will convene Indigenous leaders in economic development and business to discuss principles and methodologies for implementing economic reconciliation at the community-level. This will include discussions on asset ownership, access to capital, entrepreneurship, employment services, workforce housing, and related topics. Our goal is to support the already visionary work of the Indigenomics Institute, BC Association of First Nations, Reconciliation Canada, and other organizations leading economic reconciliation.

SFU CED is grateful to the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam Nations for allowing us to engage in these important activities on their unceded lands. We are also thankful for SFU’s support and belief in this program. We look forward to doing transformational work in the years to come. 


Biography of Sxwpilemaát Siyám

My name is Sxwpilemaát Siyám, also know as Chief Leanne Joe, of the Squamish Nation. I am one of sixteen Hereditary Chiefs of the Squamish Nation and the first female Chief of my Lackett Joe Family. I share my name with my late father, Sxwpelim Siyam, Chief Philip Joe.  I am also a descendent of the Kwakwaka’wakw speaking people and carry the traditional name of Q-Gee-Sea Loud, which was given to me by my Cheecheeya (grandmother on my mother’s side).  I am also descendant of the Thomas family of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation on my late grandmother’s side of the family (my late father’s mother).

I was born and raised on the coastal shores of North Vancouver while having close relations to my roots on the east coast shores of Vancouver Island. I moved to the Nicola Valley 10 years ago, after I met, fell in love and married Tim ‘Spike’ Manuel, former Chief of the Upper Nicola Band.  We lived in the Nicola Valley for 10 years but moved back to the coast two years ago. We have a 12-year old son named Isaac, who carries 3 traditional names from all of his families.  My husband is a traditional knowledge keeper/cultural teacher and works with youth and community to engage them in rebuilding their cultural teachings and knowledge.  Our son is our life teacher as he engages us in healing, listening, laughter and patience.

I am a very passionate and resilient woman who is committed to working with others to keep our circle strong and continue the movement towards self-reliance. Our legacy is our children, thus, our responsibility to ensure that their future and the generations to follow have more balanced, peace and wellness.  So, they have the tools to engage in the world in a completely different way than we have and can walk in two worlds with ease…using the past to make a better a future.