Sxwpelimaat Siyam (Chief Leanne Joe), Squamish Nation Hereditary Chief
My name is Sxwpilemaát Siyám, also known 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 14 years but moved back to the West Coast a few 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.
Tell us about yourself:
I wear numerous hats in all of the work that I do. I am currently the Project Team Lead for the Indigenous Leadership Circle for the Women in Leadership Foundation. I am also the Transformative Storyteller for Economic Reconciliation, with Simon Fraser University, Faculty of Environment, Community Economic Development. I also serve as a Trustee for the Squamish Nation Trust, representing the benefactors in the management of this Trust. I sit on two Foundation Boards, serving as a member at Large. I also do some other educational engagements when requested. My educational background includes BA in Business, MA in CED (1st year only), SFU Community Economic Development Certificate, and other related certificates and training.
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 future.
What is matriarchy to you?
Matriarchy is leadership. It means being in service to your people, community and Nations. Leading by example and not always in the limelight. Doing things through love and light and connected to one’s spirit in all things. It’s leading in a way that the young one’s watch you and witness integrity, honesty, truth, courage, openness, empathy, forgiveness and kindness. It’s about earning respect and not demanding it. It’s not about power and control, it’s about leading with love in every way possible.
How did you get to where you are? What is your foundation?
I am here because of the love, compassion, support, guidance, and giving of my mother, father, sister, families and friends. Without whose knowledge, encouragement, wisdom, etc. I would not be able to fail, learn and grow. My foundation is the belief I have in myself to lead, be led, learn, grow, heal, and be spiritual and connected to my spirit in a way that brings out my true purpose in this lifetime.
Who or what is/was your inspiration?
My inspiration was my people because I love them. Then becoming a mother increased that by the size of the entire universe. Our son is our everything, our greatest teacher and my inspiration to be the best I can possibly be. I want him to witness us being wonderful spiritual beings having a human experience, so that he never loses his spirit, spirituality, love and all his gifts and greatness he is destined for.
What words of wisdom do you have for your sector/industry?
Remember that we are all human, this is what makes us the same, no matter how we look and feel different. Our humanity connects us. That we are alive with all of the elements, mother earth and her amazing creatures. We, like them, have a responsibility to care for all of it. Our children are watching and we can shift our sphere of influence on how we are in our lifetime. We can think beyond ourselves, see and participate in the world with nothing but love.
What is your vision for the next generation?
I envision them being given space to reconnect with their spirit, spirituality, and love for themselves. To dismantle a world full of negativity, power and control. To have the freedom to lead in a new way. They choose to come in this lifetime, to share their gifts, knowledge and love, so let's give them the space required to share it and change the world. Which is going to be radically different then you know.
Share words of wisdom, message, or quote for the next generations?
Be willing to free your mind, heart, soul and spirit for love and light. Giving space to listening to your true purpose and leading in a new way, not for yourself, but the generations to come.