The clean sweep of chief, deputy chief and councillors brought new blood to the Nee Tahi Buhn (NTB) First Nation leadership table, this week. At the top of the fresh list is rookie chief Marcella Morris.
“I definitely am nervous. I’ve never done a council position at our band before. I mulled this for about a year,” Morris told the Lakes District News following her electoral win.
She was no stranger to band involvement, however. Two years ago she was the main grassroots facilitator of restoring a council table the membership felt was in need of revival.
She was also, immediately before the election, general manager of neighbouring Skin Tyee First Nation. Since the election she has been training her replacement while “already being approached by some of our affiliated partners…we have a lot of administrative work to get done and right now Nee Tahi Buhn doesn’t have much of a staff.”
With only 140-some members, and only a community hall on the south side of Francois Lake for infrastructure, Morris feels NTB is far behind in national development. As an administrator for Skin Tyee, she saw that First Nation attract investment and opportunity on a regular basis, right next door, and wants that kind of economic and cultural development to happen for NTB.
She feels there will be strong membership support for adding a significant amount of housing on NTB reserve land so an eager diaspora can return home. That desire has already been surveyed, Morris said, and it represents cultural invigoration.
So too, does all the youth involvement in NTB politics, she said, pleased at how young some of the candidates were, and from places like Prince George and Fraser Lake but willing to attend to their First Nation’s needs. Her own father was the deputy chief at the previous council table, and how his daughter is that elected voice.
“I’m someone who is still learning about our culture and our language. Both my parents were residential school survivors, so, yeah,” she said, and it is a typical story within First Nations across the country. “We know it only takes one generation to lose a language and I feel like I could be that generation, that if I don’t start putting my mind to it, I could possible lose the language. I feel that pressure, to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
She is a living example of the typical NTB member, eager to connect to her roots and yet cut off by colonial earthquakes and modern aftershocks. She is midway through a degree, has a seven-year-old son, Kai, and sees in him all the inspiration she could possibly need to work for change.