Huu-ay-aht Executive Director James Edwards was one of three young professionals in the Alberni Valley to take home a prestigious Top 20 Under 40 Business and Community Achievement Award on March 14.
James, along with Kama Money and Drew Bradley, took home trophies, and were recognized for being leaders in their community. Other nominees included Huu-ay-aht Councillor John Jack and Hupacasath member Jolleen Dick, as well as Eric Waldriff, Kris Patterson, Michelle Lapointe and Rebecca Palmer.
James says this is a true honour, and one that he believes reflects well on the Nation. It really says something about Huu-ay-aht that two of the nine nominees from this area represent the Nation, he explains.
“It shows the commitment and value we add to the community around us,” he says. “The work we are doing is complex and high profile, and it is being recognized outside our area.”
He believes the work he has done with Huu-ay-aht played an important part in his win, but James also believes his personal story helped him gain recognition.
“I dropped out of school in Grade 9, but eventually completed my upgrading and now have three university certifications behind me now, including a masters degree,” he explains. “That, and the fact that I worked myself across the country in senior positions at a very young age, makes me kind of unique.”
He says it is a great honour to get nominated and pretty exciting to win, but he did not get there alone.
“It is certainly nice to be recognized,” he says. “But it is important to acknowledge my wife and family, and the part they play here. My wife puts up with the long hours and has supported me through the whole process, I couldn’t have done any of it without her support.”
He says credit should also go to the people who offered him leadership and teachings along the way. This includes the guidance and teachings he has always received from his parents and Elders, and the principaled leadership he has learned from Huu-ay-aht’s Elected Chief Councillor Jeff Cook and Ḥaw̓iiḥ.
James says it is these kinds of relationships that has led to his success.
He adds that it is an honour to be among such a dedicated group of hard-working individuals from all over the Island.