Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell Sr., a well-respected and distinguished hereditary chief in the Laxts’imilx Laxsgiik (Beaver/Eagle) tribe of the Nisg̲a’a Nation, has been named UNBC’s seventh Chancellor. He will be sworn in at the convocation ceremony in Prince George on May 31, 2019.
“It’s a blessing to have this honour conferred on me,” said Gosnell, in a news release. “The best thing I can do is encourage young men, women, no matter who they are, to take advantage of education. Go as far as you can and come out of University with degrees behind your name. Once you’ve done that, the world is open to you.”
Gosnell succeeds James Moore, a former Conservative cabinet minister, whose appointment was mired in controversy because of his ties to the Stephen Harper Conservative government.
Gosnell grew up in the communities of Gitwinksihlkw and Gitlaxt’aamiks (also known as New Aiyansh), in the Nass River Valley, about 100 kilometres north of Terrace. As a young man he worked as a commercial fisherman, carpenter and traditional carver, and would eventually become a band councillor and chief of the Gitlaxt’aamiks Band. He was the first elected president of the Nisg̲a’a Lisims Government and was instrumental in bringing modern medical care, education and resource management to his nation.
The highlight amongst a long list of notable accomplishments was his role as the lead Nisg̲a’a representative in negotiations that led to the Nisga’a Treaty signing in 1998. The Nisga’a Treaty was the first modern treaty between a B.C. First Nation, British Columbia and Canada. For the Nisga’a, the treaty followed the landmark 1973 Supreme Court of Canada Calder Case that set many precedents in Canadian legal history, and led to the establishment of the 1976 Comprehensive Claims Policy to negotiate Treaties under then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
“Dr. Gosnell has made tremendous contributions to the lives of Northern British Columbians and indeed people across the country,” said UNBC Board of Governors Chair, Tracey Wolsey. “To have him agree to serve as our Chancellor is a tremendous honour for the UNBC community.”
Gosnell received the Order of British Columbia in 1999, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, now Indspire, in 2000, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001 and promoted to Companion in 2006, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.
“Being able to call upon Dr. Gosnell’s lifetime of rich and meaningful experiences is priceless,” said UNBC President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Daniel Weeks. “His wisdom will support our University community as we strive to foster enthusiastic, respectful and productive dialogues that enhance relationships between all people.”
Gosnell has received honorary doctorate degrees from UNBC, Royal Roads University, the Open Learning Agency in Burnaby, the BC Institute of Technology, and Simon Fraser University, and was a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission. He is also a Board member with the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute, with which UNBC has a Federation agreement.
Other notable designations include a Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Labour Congress in 1999, Newsmaker of the Year from CTV News and CBC radio, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 2000.
A fluent speaker of the Nisga’a language, Gosnell’s hereditary chief name is Sim’oogit Hleek, the most senior name in the House. It means “well-used” or “most useful,” and in the manner that the Nation uses his wisdom, strength, and knowledge of culture to inform everything they do on the land. He has been married to Adele Gosnell for 63 years and they are proud parents of seven children, with 18 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.
UNBC’s Chancellor is appointed by the UNBC Board of Governors, after a lengthy process that includes a broad call for nominations, consultation with board members and senators and a formal nomination by the Alumni Council. The chancellor is the ceremonial head of the university.
Gosnell follows previous chancellors Iona V. Campagnolo, K. George Pedersen, Peter J.G. Bentley, Alex C. Michalos, John MacDonald and Moore.