Roger William has been elected as Chief for Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley).
In the election for chief held Feb. 27, during a second round of voting, William received 133 votes and existing Chief Marilyn Baptiste received 94.”
From the Nemiah Rodeo and Mountain Race Loonie Auction and Dinner at the Xeni Gwet’in Youth Centre Wednesday evening, William spoke by phone saying he’s happy and honoured to be elected.
“Our voter turnout was 227 from 324 eligible voters. That’s a great turnout,” he said.
As of Wednesday evening, he is Chief. On Thursday he will meet with the band council for a general assembly at 1 p.m.
William was chief for 17 years between 1991 and 2008, and served as band councillor the last five years. In January, before he decided whether to run for chief, he said he wasn’t sure if that long term as chief would harm or help his campaign.
Under the custom election system, chiefs are elected for a five-year term. There were five people running for chief this time around. Elections for band councillors will be in June.
Because he was councillor the band will meet with elders and former chiefs to decide what to do with his vacant position.
Leading up the election, candidates heard clearly from the community that the main issues are economic development, tourism, and a home for elders in Xeni Gwet’in.
“We also heard that our community wants to continue working with the Tsilquot’in National Government, and other First Nations across B.C.,” William said.
He was surprised by the results, he admitted, but in a sense always felt good going into the election. “It’s always nerve-wracking, but I’ve been here before,” he said. “The people who wanted a change have put me back in.”
Presently William works at the TNG and represents Area J in the Cariboo Regional District.
“I will be at the board meeting on Friday,” he confirmed. “People have asked if I will finish off my term and I tell them I will because there’s so much that could happen in the region.”
Besides, he said, his involvement in Area J is important.
“Not only in my community, but with ranchers and tourism operators in the region. Then there’s our rights and title case and the New Prosperity Mine proposal’s environmental review.”
Not too worried about tackling all that immediately, William said he planned to enjoy the rest of his evening.