The Squamish Nation may walk into the Olympics with new leadership as members vote in a new council on Dec. 6.
The Nation, whose traditional territory stretches from English Bay right up to Whistler where it shares territory with the Lil'wat First Nation, has 72 people running for 16 council seats, according to documents found on its website. There is no elected Chief's position. Everyone elected to council will serve a four-year term.
The Squamish Nation website lists four Hereditary Chiefs among its governance - Chief Gibby Jacob, Chief Bill Williams, Chief Dick Williams and Chief Ian Campbell.
The Squamish Nation comes into an election at an important time in its history. It will vote in a new council just two months shy of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in which the First Nation is an official partner as a member of the Four Host First Nations. It's the first time that aboriginal peoples have been official partners in the Olympic Games.
The election also comes just a few months after the First Nation faced a torrent of controversy over its intention to install billboards in various locations, including near the base of the Squamish Chief.
According to the Squamish Nation website, 2,239 of the 3,324 Squamish Nation members live on-reserve. Membership is determined by marriage and birth right.
The Squamish Nation's main source of revenue is derived from leases, including the Park Royal Shopping Centre, International Plaza, Greater Vancouver Storage Sewage Plant and Capilano Trailer Park. Squamish businesses, such as a marina, driving range and gas bar, are also significant sources of income.
Among the council candidates is Chief Ian Campbell, a Hereditary Chief who served on the last council and has also served as a lead negotiator and cultural ambassador in the Squamish Nation's Intergovernment Relations Department.
Speaking to Pique on Friday morning he said he ought to be re-elected because of "continuity and tradition."
"It's taken generations of effort to finally start seeing some of the fruition of what we're achieving," he said. "Some particulars would be just around land use planning, forestry, land development, positioning the Squamish Nation to have greater say in all those types of decision making within our territory."
If re-elected to council, Campbell's top priority will be to teach Squamish members about the importance of tradition - and creating tradition today.
"We're not in a museum," he said. "Tradition isn't something from 200 years ago, tradition is today. What we do today will someday be traditional.
"It's exciting to me to look at our demographics - it's 60 per cent youth - to know that they can be successful in whatever they choose. If we can start creating that kind of table as a government and those kinds of synergies, that can be a success."
Other priorities for Campbell include supporting Squamish elders in the realization of an Elders' Care Facility.
Also among the candidates is Chief Gibby Jacob, a Squamish Hereditary Chief who has seen the First Nation through many of its efforts to get involved in the Olympics. He's a member of the VANOC board of directors and has served six consecutive terms on council.
Now seeking his seventh, he said in a candidate profile that he wants to "continue to be a strong leader" and "voice for the Nation" during the 2010 Games and to ensure they offer continuing opportunities and benefits. He also hopes to develop a constitution for the First Nation as well as a plan for self-government.
Reached Friday he said, "I don't want to do any interviews on this stuff."
Also seeking another term is Chief Bill Williams, who chairs the Four Host First Nations board of directors and represents the Squamish Nation on its Chiefs' executive.
He's been on council for 19 years and as part of his campaign he touts his experience helping to protect Wild Spirit Places; assisting in the construction of a Church on the Nation's Capilano reserve; and his recognition by Business in Vancouver magazine as one of the city's top 10 most influential businessmen in 2008-09.
He too could not be reached for comment.
Other candidates for council include Squamish artist Ray Natraoro, Krissandra Jacobs, who also serves as the band's communications manager, Chief Dick Williams and Deborah Baker, who is also running to be the Band Manager.
Other candidates for Band Manager, the position that oversees administrative affairs for the Squamish Nation, include current manager Glen Newman, filmmaker Kwakwee Baker and Linda Calla, who's an Executive Assistant at the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C.
Advance polls take place Dec. 3 and 4 at Totem Hall in the Squamish Valley as well as the Chief Joe Mathias Centre on the Capilano reserve, just on the edge of North Vancouver.
Voting day is Dec. 6 and voting will take place at Totem Hall, the Elders Centre on the Capilano reserve and Eslha7an LC in Mission.