Nicola Tribal Association welcomes new executive director
After more than a decade of working in banks and another decade of working for First Nations entities and governments, Rick Yellow Horn said he is pleased to put his skills into action as the new executive director for the Nicola Tribal Association.
“My real passion is in economic development for First Nations and their entities,” Yellow Horn said, adding that the combination of his experience and passion has gotten him to his new role. “Since I’ve been able to weave that skill set together, this is the first real opportunity I’ve had to use all of those tools within my job. I know I can make a difference, it’s just a matter of having the opportunity. This is a good one for me.”
Only a month into the job, Yellow Horn already has some big plans for the seven First Nations communities that belong to the Nicola Tribal Association. Yellow Horn said the bands in the Nicola Valley have potential for huge economic growth, and that he is excited to find those opportunities and help propel their success.
“Going forward, I want to recognize some of the opportunities available, mainly in economic development, and to, as best we can, capture those opportunities and maximize on the return, whether it’s in skills development, training, employment, or projects that would bring some revenue in,” Yellow Horn said.
The “big-picture” thinker said focusing on the organization’s role as a supporter of economic endeavours for the member bands has added benefits as well, including fostering leadership skills that contribute to the stability and autonomy of bands. He said driving bands toward self-sufficiency is one of his long-term goals with the organization, and something he hopes to achieve partially through youth engagement. He said First Nations youth tend to tune out education between 12 and 16, but keeping them engaged with education could help fill the skills gap in the communities and encourage them to pursue leadership roles in the community down the line.
“Things might look pretty rosy today, but that’s your future,” Yellow Horn said. “In any of the First Nations in North America that have got it and turned the corner have, in their key positions in their organizations, their own people. That’s what makes such a difference.”
Although Yellow Horn is from Piikani First Nation in southern Alberta, he said the issues facing First Nations often transcend geographical boundaries.
“It’s quite a ways away from home, but there are some common issues: the residential schools and how that’s affected the people in a very personal way, as well as collectively, is everywhere; poverty is the same no matter where you go, and the social challenges that go along with that; the lack of leadership skills, to put it politely, is a pretty common issue for most First Nations,” he said.
Yellow Horn said tapping into tourism from Europe and Southeast Asia is one of those opportunities he is looking to explore, as well as supporting resource development. In the meantime, he said he will focus on stabilizing the everyday operations of NTA, familiarizing himself with the communities the organization serves, and continuing to provide services to NTA’s roughly 2,500 members.