Chancellor's Community Recognition Award
Chief Robert Sam is the elected leader of the Songhees First Nation, a position he has held for more than 10 years.
Chief Sam was born and raised on Songhees land near the Township of Esquimalt, in Greater Victoria. He attended a residential school in Kamloops before moving to the St. Louis College for Boys in Victoria, and then going on to the University of Victoria. Chief Sam has been a leader within the Songhees Nation as a councillor since the 1960s, and has been elected chief councillor four times since 1996.
With Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas, Chief Sam was integral in prompting the federal and provincial governments to settle a claim last year over dispossessed land now occupied by the B.C. Legislature in downtown Victoria. In 2005, Chief Sam also successfully settled an 85-year-old land issue with the federal government regarding a railway spur on Songhees land.
On broader issues, Chief Sam has been the lead negotiator for the Songhees within the Te'Mexw Treaty Association, an association of five First Nations in southern Vancouver Island. He sits on the Assembly of First Nations chiefs' committee on treaties, is a board member for the First Nations Finance Authority and is on the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority board.
Within the Songhees government, Chief Sam has been integral in developing local bylaws, including land management, taxation and fire protection. He improved education for his people through an agreement with the Victoria School Board and an affiliation with Camosun College. Chief Sam operates a garbage disposal business and is actively involved in mentoring youth in such traditional skills as canoe racing.