Soham Srimani (right) with his NWT Association of Communities community builder award in a photo posted to Facebook.
Last month, Nahanni Butte band manager Soham Srimani was handed back-to-back awards for mentorship from fellow First Nation administrators.
Just days before, he received a separate community builder award from the NWT Association of Communities at the group’s annual meeting in Yellowknife.
Now back in Nahanni Butte and back to business, Srimani said he is grateful to Chief Steve Vital and staff at the Nahɂą Dehé Dene Band office for what they’ve been able to accomplish together.
When Srimani first arrived, Chief Vital wasn’t sure what to expect. The last band manager they hired hadn’t been a good fit for the community, Vital said.
“Nahanni Butte is remote. It’s an adjustment for people used to living in bigger cities,” Vital said. “So yeah, I was worried.”
But from the moment Srimani stepped off the plane, Vital said those worries dissipated.
“He had heart,” Vital told Cabin Radio. “He loved the scenery, he loved the place, he loved the remoteness. He was always taking pictures.
“He fell in love with the mountain across the river, and I think being captured by that made him become more involved with our community.”
Younger generations involved
Srimani also subscribed to Vital’s stated dream of revitalizing Nahanni Butte’s ageing infrastructure.
In 2019, a national study had ranked Nahanni Butte second-last in the country for quality of infrastructure. For Vital, becoming chief in 2020 was about turning that tide – creating housing, roads and opportunities the community could take pride in.
Srimani, Vital said, “has been very active on that, trying every which way to get it done. He’s been very successful at writing proposals, grants… we’re doing much better now, and it’s all thanks to his hard work.”
Srimani received the mentorship awards for both 2021 and 2022 from the band managers’ working group at a meeting of First Nation administrators last month.
“He’s put so much time and effort to help build up the community,” said Lory-Ann Bertrand, the recreation, emergency and community coordinator for Nahanni Butte.
“And he’s been doing an amazing job.”
For Vital, Srimani’s enthusiasm and heart go beyond his approach to work.
“A lot of managers, all they see is resources – how they can get money into the community. But the way he sees it is, he just wants to build up Nahanni Butte in every way. He gets the younger generations involved. The way I see it, he takes to heart and listens to what we tell him.”
As a result, Vital says, Srimani is part of the community.