Councillors from Port Alberni’s Tseshaht First Nation ushered in a new era by electing a new man to lead the tribe.
Lawyer Hugh Braker was elected by councillors to be the tribe’s chief councillor at a swearing in ceremony held at the Tseshaht Cultural Centre on Wednesday night.
The election was carried out via secret ballot among councillors but in a public forum.
Braker takes the reigns from Les Sam, who served as chief councillor for eight years.
Councillors elect their chief councillor in a process similar to school board trustees electing their chair. The policy is part of the Tseshaht’s election code.
“I feel very honoured that our members elected me to council first,” Braker said in a telephone interview. “And I’m honoured that councillors have faith in my abilities to be chief councillor.”
Tseshaht members elected six new faces and three incumbents in the tribe’s election on May 12.
Also sworn into council Wednesday for their first terms were Deb Foxcroft, Janice Johnson, Eunice Joe, Gina Pearson and John Gomez. Returning to council are Les Sam, Dennis Bill and Boyd Gallic.
Swearing councillors in may be contemporary, but the community tempered it with a touch of tradition by spreading eagle down on the floor of the hall to a chant before the meeting started.
“It’s a way of cleansing the building,” Braker said of bringing closure to the election. “More importantly, it gives spiritual expression to who we are as Tseshaht people.”
Tseshaht’s strength flows from its people, Braker said, and a formidable core was chosen from the pool of candidates that ran in the election.
Braker, 59, is the eldest son of Tinus and Pauline Braker, and sibling to brothers Clifford and Colin.
Hugh practiced law for more than 30 years before retiring three years ago. He was in-house counsel for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council for 10 years; is the president of the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C.; and is an appointee to the New Relationship Trust.
“Deb Foxcroft works as an assistant deputy minister with the provincial government. Dennis Bill is a teacher. Boyd Gallic is courtworker. Several others have university degrees,” the Queen’s Counsel lawyer said. “These are people who have reached milestones and work at important jobs.”
The tribe’s late hereditary chief Adam Shewish, whom Braker counts as a mentor, was a proponent of getting an education and coming back to help the people, he said.
There were 338 out of 700 Tseshaht eligible voters who cast their ballots for a slate of 29 candidates.
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