Non-native woman nominated for chief of B.C. band

Pauline Goertzen is neither a member of the Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation — also known as the Burns Lake First Nation — nor a Status Indian, but she is able to run for the position of chief under the Indian Act.

Pauline Goertzen is able to run for the position of chief under the Indian Act

A First Nation in northern B.C. may be moving in a radical direction after it nominated a non-Native, white woman to run for the position of chief.

Pauline Goertzen had been nominated for the position of chief with the Burns Lake First Nation. She is neither a member of the band nor a Status Indian, but she is able to run for the position of chief under the Indian Act. (Facebook)

Pauline Goertzen is neither a member of the Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation — also known as the Burns Lake First Nation — nor a Status Indian, but she is able to run for the position of chief under the Indian Act.

Goertzen said she was approached by some of the band members who are hoping that, as chief, she can help heal some of the divisions the community.

"I have been a supporter of the community over this past year throughout many different challenges they faced and as we've gone through them, it's been really hard for the community to be recognized or have a voice," she said.

Goertzen said the community has been grappling with economic challenges and a number of suicides. She also said there are a lot of unanswered questions around how some members of the band are doing business with oil and gas companies. 

Former-Chief Al Gerow resigned in December after months of division and distrust in the community.

Burns Lake Elder Ryan Tibbetts said he is one of many who stand in full support of Goertzen's nomination, and hopes a win will lead to more transparency in council affairs.

"At this point it's not even about membership, it's about being a human being. We're really looking at ways that we come together and respect each other as a membership," he said. "We're hoping she brings the entire membership together."

One other person, Wes Sam, is running against Goertzen.

The election is scheduled for February 11.

With files from the CBC's Marissa Harvey

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