It was only three votes that separated chief from challenger, but 30 ballots were all Marcella Morris needed to supplant incumbent Raymond Morris. It is her first time in office, now the elected leader of the Nee Tahi Buhn (NTB) First Nation.
In the election held Dec. 6, the council table was also stocked with deputy chief Mark Morris, earning the spot with 19 votes compared to Rachel Andrews’ 15, Celine Morris’s 13 and Frank Morris Sr.’s nine.
Six people were in the running for two council spots. They went to overall highest vote-getter Bertha Hopkins (32 votes) and Patricia Mortensen’s 24. The others included Joel Morris (16), Victor Burt (15), and 11 each for Pius Jack and Nokia Raymond.
A total of 57 ballots were cast, out of 114 eligible voters. It’s a small number in a pure sense, but electoral officer Graeme Drew was excited by the 50 per cent participation rate. By comparison, B.C.’s recent municipal election got about 30 per cent turnout.
“Big news: new chief. Quite a change, actually, from past council to this one,” Drew observed.
Not one incumbent was returned to the leadership table.
The majority of voters cast their ballots online, to which Drew ascribed off-territory residents and “a younger demographic that embraced that option.”
In recent years, NTB has had to carry out by-elections , due to table vacancies, but this one was on the timetable established under their custom election code. The current slate of leaders are in place for the next four years, under the terms of that self-designed process.
According to the provincial government, there are 143 NBT members at this time. It is an independent First Nation with linguistic affiliation to the Athapaskan language group and Wet’suwet’en cultural family. Nee Tahi Buhn is the ancient name for Francois Lake in the local dialect.
Structured under the balhats governance system, the NBT First Nation people are shared into five clans: Gilseyhu (Big Frog), Laksilyu (Small Frog), Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear), Laksamashu (Fireweed) and Tsayu (Beaver).
Under the twentieth century colonial legalities that were attempted to be imposed on First Nations of this region, the so-called Decker Lake, Francois Lake, Maxim Lake and Skin Tyee “bands” merged in 1960 to form the Omineca Band. In 1984 the Omineca Band divided into the Nee Tahi Buhn (previously named the Francois Lake Band) and Broman Lake Bands. In 2000, the Skin Tyee Band separated from the Nee Tahi Buhn Band.