Caring for children and her community has been the hallmark of First Nations elder Marie Leo, who officially retired from the RCMP Aboriginal Advisory Committee at a special ceremony in Mount Currie last Friday, March 30.
Friends, RCMP representatives and members of the local Tribal Police turned out to honour Leo, who is the mother of LilWat Nation chief executive officer Lyle Leo. During the ceremony she was presented with a Commanding Officers Aboriginal Advisory Committee E Division plaque for her work between September, 1993 and September, 2000. However Leos community contributions include more than police-related work.
Born in New Westminster in 1923, Leo was brought to Mount Currie upon adoption by her foster family. Through her marriage and subsequent 12 children, she became involved with the bands elementary Tszil school and with the home workers club, taking care of elders. In 1972 she became a Community Health Representative, undergoing specialist training for the job between 1971 and 1980.
The death of Marie Leos husband in 1973 opened a new chapter in her community care work and took her back to her roots. Leo moved to Vancouver to work as a foster parent with native children in Burnaby in a program run by the government social services department. However, within three years she returned to Mount Currie to work as a drug and alcohol councillor with her people and to also take on the position of Native Court Worker. Illness forced her to quit the job in 1986, but she still became involved with the aboriginal advisory committee as an elder.
Leo says she has seen many changes among Mount Currie youth over the years but still believes good spokespeople are vital for First Nations communities. She says Mount Currie is fortunate to have members such as Christine Leo who can continue communicating with and educating the general public.
"There is still a lot the RCMP needs to learn about native culture in general," she explains. "I am a person who spoke a lot on behalf of my community in public and still enjoy talking and listening to people if they need someone to talk to."
Leo says even though she has officially retired, she still welcomes the opportunity to be involved in her community and with her grand and great grand children.
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