What It’s Like to Be a First Nations Chief Councillor

Written for FLARE‘s 9-5 series.

What is the Tseshaht community like? We have over 1,100 members, however not all of them live in Port Alberni, B.C. on the Tseshaht reserve. A lot of them are off-reserve members. The Tseshaht community is really hard to explain if you’re not a part of it. The community is very strongly connected and that’s the way it is with Nuu-chah-nulth people [the First Nations tribes of western Vancouver Island]. The Nuu-chah-nulth has a saying: “hishukish ts’awalk,” and it means we are all one and interconnected and that applies to people, the land, and everything. For instance, we just had our first “Community Fish Day,” where fishermen let their nets down and then anywhere from 20 to 50 community members went in and pulled them out together. The fish caught that day was distributed among the community members that don’t have the opportunity to go out and fish on their own.

What does the Chief Councillor do? Our hereditary chiefs, who we call the Ha’wiih, are born into their roles. The nine elected council positions are the leadership for the Nation and are involved with pretty much everything and anything to do with Tseshaht. We are the ones on the political front, lobbying and negotiating with the government for things that we need. My role, chief councillor, is a full-time position and it’s the head council position. The eight councillors are not full-time. Each of them has a portfolio (such as education, fisheries and housing) and they deal with those meetings and committees and make the decisions for those specific programs.

Read the full story here.

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