VERNON - There are old and new faces in the running for leadership of the Okanagan Indian Band.
Five people were nominated for position of chief in the upcoming March 29 council election, which happens every two years.
A nomination meeting was held last night, Feb. 2, and band members put forward five candidates for chief and 34 for councillor.
The nominees for chief put forth at the meeting are Daniel Wilson, Cindy Brewer, Joseph Jack, John Reynolds Bonneau, and incumbent Chief Byron Louis. John Reynolds Bonneau and Daniel Wilson are former band chiefs, and Wilson currently sits on council.
We were unable to reach all candidates today for interviews, but it appears there is appetite for change among those running.
Joseph Jack, a former communications coordinator for the band, is running for council for the first time, and the reason he's doing so is because he wants to see change on the reserve.
“We are sliding backwards,” Jack says. “We need opportunities for our members.”
He sees the need for more economic development on the reserve, as well as an increased housing supply. He says 46 members are currently on a housing list in need of a home.
“We need strong-willed and determined leadership at the Okanagan Indian Band,” he says.
Individuals can be nominated, and run, for both a seat on council and the title of chief. Jack was nominated for both, but withdrew his name for council.
“You really see that for there to be change, it has to be at the top,” Jack says. “I would rather fail gloriously, attempting to make peoples’ lives better, than to wring my hands as another generation of people live in poverty.”
Incumbent Byron Louis, who has served as chief continuously from 2011 to today, is looking forward to seeing how the election turns out, and says whatever happens, the outcome is in the hands of the electorate.
“It’s the will of the people,” he says. “At the end of the day, you have to accept what your electorate wants. If it’s change, you have to accept that.”
Louis feels his accomplishments as chief include getting a handle on the band’s finances, retaining qualified staff, and ensuring accountability and fairness. Moving forward, he believes one of the most important issues for the band is economic development.
“We’ve got to build upon our economic base. It’s not starting from scratch, we definitely have to build on it,” Louis says.
Louis was first elected to council in 1991.
“I took a break in 2005, and was told ‘it’s not up to you when you leave office. It’s our (members’) decision,’” Louis says. “This position isn’t about privilege, it’s about responsibility. It’s not an easy position, that’s for sure.”
Read more about what the Okanagan Indian Band has been up to over the past few years here.
Watch for more coverage of the election by iNFOnews.ca.
Reynolds John Bonneau
Cynthia Lee Brewer
Barbara June Cole
Lynn Germaine Gregoire
Diane F. Louis
Richard Jr. Louis
John Spotted Eagle
Russel (Harold) Williams
William Robert Wilson
- This story was updated at 8:40 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2017 to correct Reynolds John Bonneau's name.
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