Cecelia Reekie became the first aboriginal person to be sworn in as a Langley school trustee on Tuesday night.
Reekie, a member of the Haisla First Nation, wore a bright red and black traditional button blanket with an eagle emblem, the sign of her clan.
Her birth father Cecil Paul sat with Reekie’s adoptive parents John and Sharon Cashore and Reekie’s son Chris, and watched the ceremony.
After Reekie was formally sworn in by provincial court judge Kenneth Skilnick, Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel made an emotional speech, saying it has always been her dream to see a First Nations person on the Langley school board.
“It is a good day for our people,” Gabriel said.
“It’s an amazing feeling.”
“You earned your way,” she told Reekie, “now make us proud.”
Reekie said she was very excited for her new journey to begin.
“I will stand with honour and conviction to do what is right,” Reekie said.
“I know we will succeed if we walk softly with respect.”
Drummers from the Kwantlen First Nation sang a paddle song to honor the occasion.
“When we’re in that canoe together, we go together. Every stroke of that paddle is a prayer,” Kwantlen band member Lekeyten told the board.
During the song, people lined up to shake Reekie’s hand as she stood with her family at her side.
After he was finished singing, Lekeyten thanked Reekie’s adoptive mom for looking after her and hugged her.
“Welcome to the family,” he said.
Reekie will serve an 11-month term on the board.
The byelection in Langley Township was called after former board chair Joan Bech abruptly resigned in September shortly after moving to the Sunshine Coast.
Reekie won by edging out former trustee Hattie Hogeterp by just over 200 votes, gaining 1,311 to Hogeterp’s 1,108.
Reekie was backed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which sent letters to its members asking them to vote for her. The president and vice-president of the Langley Teachers Association were at her victory party.
The other two candidates in the election were far behind the two front-runners.
Brian Leonard had 163 votes and Ed Wood had 93.
The total turnout at the polls was 2,675 voters, out of 70,345 on the updated Langley Township voters’ list.