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Roger William returns as chief of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation

This will be William’s third stint as leader
Roger William is back in the saddle as Chief of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation. (Photo submitted)

Roger William is once again chief of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation after the community went to the polls on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

In a second round where the candidates needed at least 50 per cent of the votes, William got 116 and incumbent Chief Jimmy Lulua received 98.

“Jimmy was leading in the first round and I was second. It was a close election,” William said.

William is no stranger to being chief, having served in the role from 1991 to 2008 and from 2013 to 2018,

Speaking from Vancouver where he is presenting at the Sixth Annual National Water Symposium, William said he was honoured to be elected.

“I’ve been humbled through the last five years,” William said, adding through that time he has been working on the Dasiqox-Nexwagwez?an Tribal Park - a land, water and wildlife Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in traditional Tsilqhot’in territory.

“I want to try and involve our people more,” he said. “I know Chief Jimmy and council made a five-year plan and did a lot of consultation. Jimmy did a really good job in his first term as chief. I thank him for his hard work for our people and the things he was able to do in that time with his council.”

William also wants to continue working on a negotiations charter, something that would involve people from all six Tsilhqot’in communities.

The charter would outline how leaders, contractors, staff and community members conduct themselves, he explained.

“A negotiation charter would talk about honouring and being respectful. It is something that was started that I would like to put back on the table for the nation.”

Other priorities are language, culture and traditional Tsilhqot’in law, he added.

Recently he has been doing community outreach and interviewing elders to gather information that will go into booklets and possibly a documentary.

William was front and centre in the 2014 Supreme Court Decision that resulted in the Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights and title decision.

“We want to all benefit from the title win, meanwhile looking at what Xeni Gwet’in is going to do with it. The title land is within Xeni caretaker area, but involves the whole Tsilhqot’in because we are all families.”

Xeni Gwet’in First Nation holds custom elections for five-year terms.

This June the community will hold its election for councillors.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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