By Cam Fortems
Kamloops This Week
Tk’emlups Indian Band (TIB) chief Shane Gottfriedson is B.C.’s newest regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) following a first-ballot election victory o.n Thursday.
“I credit the victory to my dedication and passion,” Gottfriedson said in a telephone interview from Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, where chiefs from around B.C. or their delegates cast ballots for regional chief.
Gottfriedson picked up 87 votes, slightly higher than the 50 per cent needed to declare a victor on the first ballot and avoid a run-off.
His closest rivals were Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, with 38 votes, and former Snuneymux chief Doug White, from the Nanaimo area, with 37. Former Adams Lake Indian Band chief Nelson Leon garnered only four votes.
After announcing his challenge for the position — and the fact he would not run again for re-election as chief of the Tk’emlups Indian Band this fall — Gottfriedson embarked on a tour that took him to all parts of the province.
It is the second time he has run for the position, losing in 2009 by nine votes.
“When you go out and take time to show communities respect and walk the land and find out the issues — that means a lot to the chiefs and people,” he said.
Gottrfriedson was sworn in for the three-year term immediately after the election.
He said his first order of business is to sit down with the AFN’s regional board of directors and talk about a transition.
Outgoing regional chief is Jody Wilson-Raybould, now a federal Liberal candidate in the riding of Vancouver-Granville.
Gottfriedson will also soon travel to a national gathering of the Assembly of First Nations in Montreal.
The TIB chief will continue living in Kamloops and will serve out his term until the local fall election.
“I’ll be doing both roles,” he said. “I’ll be relying on our council.”
Gottfriedson was first elected TIB chief in 2003 and has served four successive three-year terms.
When he announced his bid for regional chief on May 4, Gottfriedson told KTW he decided to forgo a shot at a fifth term as TIB chief because it was time to focus on the next step in his career.
“I think 12 years of community service is a good run,” Gottfriedson said. “I think it’s time for me to look at a new career path. I think I’ll always be a leader in the community. I think’s it’s time I let someone else lead our community.”
Gottfriedson did muse about running for national chief last year after the sudden resignation of Shawn Atleo, but decided against a campaign.
In his speech to TIB community members, Gottfriedson said there has been a lack of leadership in B.C. in the past six years.
“Land claims scare the hell out of investors,” he said.
“If you treat me and my people fairly, there is nothing to be afraid of. We will not back down, but the door is always open to a fair deal.”
Arguing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has continued a policy of “extinguishing native peoples’ land rights,” Gottfriedson said it is time for a unified approach to aboriginal title rights and treaty.
“Canada and B.C. have learned we can be their greatest ally or their darkest nightmare,” he said. “The choice is obvious.”
Gottfriedson’s new position will come with a pay raise.
Outgoing regional chief Wilson-Raybould, while opposing the First Nations Financial Transparency Act last summer, sent out a tweet, announcing her salary as being $107,645.92.
As chief of the Tk’emlups Band, Gottfriedson earns $82,000 a year — along with another $11,000 annually in pension and other benefits — all tax-free.