Xeni Gwet’in First Nation west of Williams Lake has a new chief.
Jimmy Lulua, 33, received more than 50 per cent of the votes in Wednesday’s band election, garnering a total of 112.
His contenders, outgoing chief Roger William received 43 votes, former chief and present councillor Marilyn Baptiste received 40 votes, Chris William received 13 and Cameron Lulua had eight votes.
Speaking from the band office Wednesday afternoon Lulua told the Tribune his win feels “surreal.”
“It’s like a blessing,” he said. “You think about this kind of day when you grow up watching leadership. Nemiah Valley is a statement in itself. So many good leaders have come out of here and every one of them has been a true leader. The people know how to pick the right person.”
Outgoing Chief Roger William, who has been on the band council since 1988, and led the community to the historic Supreme Court of Canada rights and title win in 2014, congratulated Lulua and described him as a strong young role model who will work hard for the community.
“I support him 100 per cent and have been honoured to be Chief from Xeni and to be one of the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs in my lifetime for as long as I have,” William told the Tribune. “I’ll do whatever I can to support and help our new chief and Xeni.”
Describing his as a “clean” win, Lulua said he didn’t really campaign.
“I put a couple of posts out, but thought I’m an honest person and I don’t need to be phoning or Facebooking people. My reputation is that I represent myself all the time by having a healthy mind and healthy body.”
On Wednesday evening the community is holding a celebration to honour the new chief and on Thursday morning Lulua will attend a chiefs strategy meeting with the Tsilhqo’tin National Government in Williams Lake.
“It’s a lot of things all at once, but it’s pretty awesome,” he said.
For the next few months, Lulua will work with the band council and in June the community will hold an election for council members.
His term as chief will last five years under the band’s custom election.
Right now there are two councillor positions, but Lulua is hoping they can add some more because ideally there should be one councillor for every 100 community members and there are more than 400 in Xeni Gwet’in, he explained.
Lulua said his wife June and 10 year old daughter Kaitlyn are also excited that he is now the community’s chief.
“We’ve worked hard our whole lives and that hard work is paying off,” he added.