Christopher Lewis tops poll in Squamish Nation election 

New 16-member council looks a lot like the old one

The Squamish Nation is walking into the 2010 Games with all but two of the political leaders that came before.

An election held Dec. 6 has returned a slew of familiar faces to the First Nation's band council including all four hereditary chiefs who served previously, although some came close to missing out on re-election.

Christopher Lewis, a new addition to council, was the top vote-getter in the election with 598 votes.

"I'm truly honoured and humbled that I got the support that I did, he said in an interview.

Others elected to council include Hereditary Chiefs Gibby Jacob, Dick Williams, Bill Williams and Ian Campbell. The latter came within 16 votes of missing out on a council seat.

Krisandra Jacobs, communications manager for the Squamish Nation, came in third in voting with 424 votes, followed closely by Deborah Baker who came in with 423.

Baker doubly ran as a candidate for Band Manager, a position that was held by incumbent Glen Newman, who won his job back with 626 votes. Baker came second in that position with 394 votes.

All new councilors will serve four-year terms.

A senior policy advisor with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, Lewis promised to build on a foundation set down in 1923, when several reserves amalgamated to form the Squamish Nation.

Back then there were 16 families that lived throughout what is now known as Squamish traditional territory. Lewis said in an interview that colonization separated the families into separate Indian Bands.

The bands lost land due to military purposes for World War I, as well as a smallpox epidemic that left entire villages empty. The families began to realize that they were increasingly losing access to their land and the only way to stop that was to form the Squamish Nation.

In 1923 the 16 families amalgamated into the single nation. The current governance structure, with 16 councillors, respects the families who pulled the Squamish Nation together.

"It was the 16 chiefs that came together in 1923 and said we have to come together and work together and form our own nation so we don't lose any more land or any more villages that we had," Lewis said.

At 29, Lewis has already had a varied career working for the B.C. branch of the AFN, a national body that acts for Canada's 630 First Nations.

With a BA in Geography and a minor in First Nations Studies from Simon Fraser University, he has already worked as a Lands and Resources Policy Analyst with the AFN before being promoted to Senior Policy Analyst.

Other promises in Lewis's platform include building on the Squamish Nation's existing land use plan and continuing to "assert and exercise our title and rights in our territory." That includes moving away from the Indian Act, the federal legislation that sets out the band council and reserve system for First Nations.

"Many nations are moving towards increased jurisdiction and control on their reserve and in their respective traditional territories," Lewis said. "As we all well know, the Indian Act restricts a lot of economic development and any ventures we want to do on reserve."

Making that happen could require establishing a Land Code, which allows First Nations more self-determination over what they do with their land.

"We're still existing under the Indian Act but we're just transforming what we can do under that specific act," Lewis said.



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