BC First Nations Wellness Champion Profile: Tlesla Leslie Adams (Tla’amin Nation)

Jun 16, 2019

Wellness champions are part of the fabric of BC First Nations communities. Today, we’re happy to present the very first of our BC First Nations Wellness Champion Profiles – one that honours long and rich histories of physical activity and athleticism in our communities.

This month, 82-year-old Tlesla Leslie Adams (Tla’amin Nation) is adding another trophy to his collection after being selected alongside seven other athletes and one team to be an inaugural inductee in the new Powell River Sports Hall of Fame.

During a time when opportunity for First Nations athletes was limited, Tlesla excelled in soccer and boxing. As a youth, he made it to the Bronze Gloves competition in boxing. At the 1955 Tournament of Champions, he received the Vancouver Sun Rose Bowl Trophy and was named soccer’s Golden Boy. He played for the BC All Stars in 1955 and 1956 but declined offers to go professional in order to remain close to home.

Tlesla has shared how his ability in sports was rooted in the Tla’amin teachings passed to him from his grandmother, who raised him. In a recent article about his Hall of Fame induction, he said, “I have to thank my granny. She taught me that when you do something you don’t just do it; you want to be your best.”

Growing up on the land in a traditional way supported Tlesla to build physical and mental strength that served him well in sports, and later in his career with Macmillan Bloedel. Sports also became an outlet when Tlesla was removed from his home to residential school at age 15. As an adult, he continued to serve his community as an elected chief, a council member and soccer coach.

Tlesla’s legacy as a wellness champion stretches through generations. Now, his children and grandchildren are bringing their gifts forward as wellness champions as well. His son, Dr. Evan Tlesla II Adams (Tla’amin Nation), serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority. He reflects how his dad’s commitment to working hard and doing your best has shaped his own success:


“My dad passed that expectation on to us, to his family: you do your best. And even though I had no talent as an athlete, I could work hard and he would say, ‘you get in there and you can compete’. That was his expectation, actually his gift to us. His physical self and his unfailing hard work were together, they meant that he was successful, we were provided for. We learned to work hard, we learned to get in there. His excellence in his body, his mind, his spirit, in our way, meant he was good at sports, but more importantly he was good at life,” says Dr. Adams.

Tlesla Leslie Adams and his son, Tlesla II Dr. Evan Adams

Tlesla’s discipline and physical talent live on in his grandchildren as well. Dr. Adams shared, “I see my dad’s way in my own children – his heart and his spirit. That sense of ‘let’s do it, let’s go’. They are always doing something – dance classes, basketball, soccer, almost every night of the week. I don’t have to worry about them.”

Two of Tlesla’s grandsons, Cameron (20) and Jonny (15). Cameron is an aspirant member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Jonny won MVP in 3 of 4 games at a recent Kamloops soccer tournament.
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