Dedicated to the memory of Nita Walkem, a trailblazer for Indigenous child welfare in her own community and across BC.
Nita Walkem chaired the Indigenous Child and Family Services Directors and held various portfolios during her many years of service. We were always so impressed by her strength, passion, grace and gentle spirit. We offer our thanks to Nita for sharing that spirit with us.
Nita’s traditional name is Medicine Water, which describes her as a healer and a leader championing change for the well-being and healing of Indigenous children, families, and communities. Nita was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and a long-time leader promoting the wellness and best interests of children.
As a young woman, Nita Walkem noticed that children were disappearing from her community and it became her lifelong mission to find these children, bring them home, and reconnect them with family and community. At the age of 19, she became a foster parent taking in children from both the community and the child welfare authority. Medicine Water was a leader for First Nations in the establishment of Delegated Aboriginal Agencies in British Columbia in the mid-1990s. She chaired many inter-governmental committees with federal, provincial, and First Nations representatives. As an advocate for change, Nita pushed and challenged government leaders and bureaucrats to support the work and goals of Delegated Aboriginal Agencies.
Nita, along with a small group of other Indigenous leaders, led the development of Delegated First Nations child welfare agencies and the development of First Nations practice and operational standards—developed by First Nations people for the benefit of First Nations children and families. Nita worked toward building positive productive relationships with other Delegated Aboriginal Agency Directors, the provincial government, and the federal government. Nita was a strong negotiator driven by her heart and her spirit.
Nita dedicated her life to Indigenous Child Welfare spending over 30 years as the Director of Nlha’7kapmx Child and Family Services (NCFSS). Throughout her career, she held her love for those most vulnerable at the centre of her work. NCFSS Staff and Board have immense appreciation and gratitude for Nita, all her work and all that she accomplished for the betterment of our communities and our nation. Her passion, wisdom and dedication to the health and well-being of our children and families is highly regarded by her staff, colleagues, clients and the communities she worked with, for and alongside. Her amazing spirit and energy will continue to guide us to move forward in the path and strong connections she has established.
She always believed in the inherent strength of our families and our communities and that was always reflected in her practice and her leadership, which meant doing everything she could to keep families together and making sure no one was left behind. Through Nita we learned that the Best Practice came from working together, believing in the human spirit and holding one another up.
After Nita’s death, countless messages and memories were shared about our dear matriarch, friend, and leader. There is the saying about standing on the shoulders of giants who have come before us: Nita is one of those giants and many of us are standing on her shoulders. We will continue to honour her ground-breaking work and pursue her dreams for Indigenous child welfare.
Nita Walkem’s vision, leadership, and compassion serve as a reminder to us all that we can do this work in a good way. Nita will always be remembered as a great friend who made our lives richer and our work with Indigenous communities stronger.