Aaron Derrickson

40 under 40: Aaron Derrickson

The Kelowna Chamber partners with BDO on the Top 40 Under 40

Aaron Derrikson was 15 years old when a spark was lit inside of him – he decided he wanted to be apart of the story of resurgence in the hearts, minds and communities of Indigenous peoples.

Since then, Aaron acquired his B.A. with a history major and French minor, a B.Ed. in French, a certificate in Indigenous leadership, governance, and management from the Banff Center, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in leadership and governance from a Syilx perspective and oral traditions.

While in his teaching profession, Aaron developed an Indigenous curriculum, started an Indigenous leadership academy, and educated staff and administrators on Indigenous issues.

As Aaron transitioned from teaching to grad school, he started his own business set on advancing Syilx-Indigenous relations within the Syilx territory/Okanagan region. He has worked with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, School District 67, Westbank First Nation, the University of British Columbia, and the City of Kelowna.

Through his work Aaron is grateful to be apart of the story of Indigenization and reconciliation in the Syilx territory/Okanagan region.

From a Syilx perspective, leadership is using all your capabilities to serve people, the land and all living things.

There is the development of a leader and there are the actions of leadership.

The development of a leader happens in the decisions we make, how we respond to adversity, how we act in positions of power, and how we treat greatest to least in any community. Throughout Aaron’s life he carried out the actions of a leader in a Syilx context. Whether it was being Santa, or being a broker between UBC-Okanagan and the Syilx nation, he was doing what he was doing for our people now, and our people yet to come. For example, through working with the City of Kelowna, he is ensuring our cultural knowledge is accurate and placed in context: The building being built will have the appropriate traditional stories. The land being developed is recognized for its historical use by Syilx people and the sensitive habitats are being preserved.

His volunteerism and advocacy was one and the same when he was a teenager. Aaron mentored youth in his community, ran childcare programs, and volunteered in countless other minor capacities, such as being Santa at the community Christmas dinner or being a door greeter at Westbank First Nation staff events.

When he was in university, his volunteerism and advocacy became more pragmatic. Aaron worked for his community to pay bills. He worked as an administrative assistant in finance and in our long-term care home, he was a youth worker, and he worked as the recreation programmer.

During those posts, Aaron created the WFN youth council (an advocacy group for our youth) he developed health and wellness programs for all ages, and coached the junior all-native basketball team. When he was teaching, on top of curriculum/program development, he volunteered as assistant coach for the senior boys basketball team. Currently, Aaron is focused on his Ph.D. research and consulting, which continues to serve my vision of bringing resurgence to Indigenous communities.

Aaron is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Syilx leadership and governance based in our captikwl (oral traditions) at UBC Okanagan. His research looks at Syilx principles and concepts of leadership and governance housed in our oral traditions, and by which our societies thrived, and how those principles and concepts inter-relate with the current data and research on leadership and governance.

Aaron received the Social Sciences and Humanity Research Council Scholarship, Chief Black Bear Scholarship, Institute for Community Engaged Research Scholarship. You can find him in the University of British Columbia TV Commercial .

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