When Jody Wilson-Raybould was eight years old, her people held a naming potlatch. Her grandmother chose for her the name Puglaas, meaning “woman born of noble people.” The Kwakwaka’wakw is a matrilineal culture; her grandmother is their highest “ranking” person. Puglaas therefore couldn’t be more aptly named.
Recently Jody welcomed us into her light-filled living room to share a narrative – how she became involved with the Minerva Foundation and the creation of the initiative known as Combining Our Strength™.
What struck me immediately upon meeting Jody was something quite rare: a kind of positivity and optimism often lacking amongst leaders as experienced as herself. She is utterly un-jaded, and speaks with effusive clarity about our ability to change the world with hard work and determination. This comes despite having been a crown prosecutor at Vancouver’s Main Street courthouse, where she argued and advocated against a great many potentially hardening injustices.
She credits all kinds of extraordinary mentorship with forging this trait. Her grandmother and the other leaders of her lineage gave her the conviction and strength of purpose that is her compass. Perhaps this is what drew her to the Minerva Foundation — a shared value to make the world a better place.
She is an alumna of the very first Learning to Lead™ weekend where she participated as a Community Leader in a “triad” (of a Grade 11 student, Emerging Leader and Community Leader).
At that point, Minerva was having a very difficult time recruiting Aboriginal women into our suite of leadership development programs. Recognizing the need to create culturally-sensitive programming to fulfill our value of inclusivity, founder Nancy McKinstry asked Jody to sit on what has since been called the Combining Our Strength™ Council. The initiative Jody helped to develop, uniting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women, now accounts for a full 50 percent of Minerva’s charitable work. Jody went on to become a Minerva board director and a member of our Patron’s Circle.
Earlier this month, Jody handsomely won the new riding of Vancouver-Granville, and will soon be en route to Ottawa as a newly-elected Liberal MP (amidst many rumours of a Cabinet appointment). It is an extraordinary achievement, largely the result of 120,000 genuine conversations she’s engaged over the past year. Yet elected politics is certainly not new to her; she won with 78 percent support when she became regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2009.
Along with her name, Puglaas inherited the responsibility to improve the quality of life of those around her. That community now stretches beyond her Nation, beyond her riding and across the country. Her leadership trajectory is soaring, and Minerva is thrilled to have been a part of that.
This article first appeared in Volume 1 of ‘The Insider’, an exclusive publication for our Circle of Friends. It has been altered to include Jody’s election victory.