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Gayle Frank says NWAC wants to represent all Indigenous women. It was a special occasion when Xwisten (Bridge River Band) honoured Gayle Frank at a dinner on Feb. 22.

Frank, who is a member of the Xwisten Band, was recently named First Vice President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). She joined NWAC’s Board of Directors in 2016 and became Secretary in 2017. In January of this year, she became First Vice President.

The NWAC has been the voice of Indigenous women in Canada since 1974. Its collective goal is to “enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies.”

According to the NWAC website, “Much like a ‘Grandmother’s Lodge,’ we as aunties, mothers, sisters, brothers and relatives collectively recognize, respect, promote, defend and enhance our Native ancestral laws, spiritual beliefs, language and traditions given to us by the Creator.”

Gayle Frank grew up in Kamloops, where her mother attended residential school. She lives in Kamloops now, but still has ties through her maternal family to the Xwisten community.

Frank followed the footsteps of her maternal family by graduating from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in First Nations Studies and Archaeology.

She told the News she “really” enjoys volunteering and being of service to others and has always had a passion for issues and opportunities related to Indigenous youth and women

“I totally love being of service to our women,” she told the News. “It’s really humbling because I don’t feel it’s my voice I’m bringing forward. It’s challenging to me because the issues are so diverse and the issues we have here in the interior are different from what’s up north or on the island.”

Frank expects to be busy with her new position, which requires a substantial commitment of time and energy. Recently, she’s been traveling back and forth to Ottawa every month for national board meetings. She’s also been invited to speak at a national gathering on Indigenous languages and culture in Nova Scotia.

She says NWAC wants to represent all Indigenous women – “First Nations, Inuit, Metis, status, non-status; women who have been disenfranchised; women who are trying to be accepted into communities so it’s not just the INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) view of what is considered Aboriginal. It’s much more grass roots.”

Frank currently works with Indigenous youth worker through a program called Project Venture. According to her NWAC bio, “Through social and community adventures, the PV team is able to facilitate healthy boundaries and risk taking with Indigenous youth.”

The biography continues, “Cultural teachings and preservation are something Gayle takes seriously and many look to her for advice. Gayle’s role as a leader and cultural teacher comes to her as a gift of teachings by her S’tat’imc Mom and Aunties. These strong women taught her about advocating for Indigenous rights, culture and language. As an extension of her cultural teaching, she started a St’at’imc hand drumming group in Kamloops to help the urban Indigenous community stay connected to language and culture.”

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