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Community Champion: Youngest OKIB council member listens to heart, follows dreams

28-year-old Ryan Oliverius was working a welding job when he realized he ‘had to take responsibility for my own decisions’
Ryan Oliberius is Respect Works Here Community Champion of the month February 2021. (Contributed)

Ryan Oliverius has accomplished a lot in his 28 years. He grew up in Vernon and is the first member of his family to obtain a university degree.

He is currently the communication coordinator for the Okanagan Nation Alliance. In this role, he takes care of all the social media and helps to plan programs including photography and videos.

Oliverius is also the youngest member of the Okanagan Indian Band Council.

While attending Thompson Rivers University (TRU), he was asked by their marketing team to be the voice and face of TRU. Oliverius was in the Globe and Mail, on billboards and TRU’s website pages, and everywhere the university was promoted in B.C. and Alberta.

“It was fun and helped to develop my self-confidence,” he said.

In 2019, Oliverius was on the youth panel for CANDO, a national Indigenous organization involved in community development.

As well as being the youth representative on a variety of panels, he has also spoken to school-aged children, sharing his path and his choices in life, hoping to encourage them to stay in school and pursue their dreams.

Initially thinking that university was not a possibility, he enrolled in a program that was designed to help him decide what to do for a career. While taking this program, he was told his IQ was very high. When he met with a career counsellor, he was advised to go into the trades and he signed up for a welding course.

“It was at a welding job that I had an epiphanal moment… I realized that I had to take responsibility for my own decisions, so I listened to my heart and followed my dreams. I figured out a way to go to university and graduated with a Business Administration degree.”

He is also involved with community economic development initiatives (CANDO and FDM) and interacts with the City of Vernon. Some of this includes cultural tourism. Oliverius feels it is important to have a young First Nation voice in all these different areas.

As a First Nations Champion Dancer he does the Prairie Chicken dance, as well as drumming and singing. He taught school children how to do this dance.

After attending university Oliverius started his business, Salish Steel Metal Art. He shares that he loves the creative aspect of marketing and thinks that entrepreneurship may offer financial freedom at some point.

At this writing, Oliverius also has two photographs hanging in the Vernon Art Gallery to help bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. They are also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

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