Atlin leader re-elected on promise of strong stewardship

John D. Ward was elected spokesperson of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation on Monday.

John D. Ward elected spokesperson of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation on Monday

'I think I've got enough juice for one more term,' said John D. Ward, elected Taku River Tlingit spokesperson on Tuesday. (CBC)

John D. Ward is the new spokesperson of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C.

Ward was returned to the community's top job by voters on Monday. The First Nation does not have a chief.

The final tally saw him defeat incumbent Louise Gordon by a margin of 78 votes to 54.

Ward previously served as spokesperson for the tiny community until 2015.

Under his leadership, the B.C. government and the First Nation signed a land use agreement covering a vast area of the province's northwest, in 2011.

Outgoing spokesperson Louise Gordon offered best wishes to John Ward. 

"The result was decisive. Citizens chose a different vision and agenda for government, and I accept that," she said in a written statement Tuesday.

She also offered some advice to Ward: "We must live within our means. We must not borrow money to cover shortfalls or unfunded projects. We must not mortgage our future for short-term solutions."

For his part, Ward said the community continues to pursue a land claim deal in the region and that remains a priority for him.

"We want to stay on track and develop a partnership with regional governments, including the Yukon government, over our territories and exercising good stewardship," Ward said.

"We need to prepare our communities for what comes ahead, and if this relationship is going to be successful, we have to step up and do our part." 

Keeping the community informed and well-consulted also remains high on his list of things to do during his term.

"There's still some issues with mission school issues and so on. Capacity needs to be built and community wellness," he said.

"There's much to be done in those areas, and I intend to focus more on the community and working closely with our people."

'Spinning our wheels'

While Ward's efforts to bring development to Atlin is significant, he thinks working to settle a land claim in the region is also important. He acknowledges that work will be difficult.

"We've also struggled with the B.C. Treaty Commission — not the commission itself, but the treaty process, just like being stuck in a snowbank there, spinning our wheels."

Ward says that on the campaign trail, voters told him they want to be included in decisions being made about their future.

Ward acknowledges he's got a big job ahead of him but believes he's ready for the challenge.

"I think I've got enough juice for one more term," he said.

Ward will serve a term of three years as spokesperson.

Also elected Monday by acclamation were two Crow Clan directors. They are Shirley Reeves and Colleen Williams.

The two Wolf Clan directors voted in on Monday were Vincent Esquiro and Rodger Taku Thorlackson. They were all acclaimed.

With files from Sandi Coleman