Chawathil First Nation officially swore-in Chief Chetlámetleqw Norman Florence and their new council on Monday evening (Sept. 19).
Florence, along with vice-Chief Tim Peters and councillors Kelsey John, Rhoda Peters, Aaron Pete, Audrey George, and Monica Florence were sworn in at an official ceremony that took place at Chawathil Te Lalemntset community complex. Over 80 people, which included Chawathil band members, members from other First Nations, and invited non-Indigenous guests, took part in the evening ceremony.
The swearing-in formally and spiritually inducted the council into their three-year term as the new leaders of Chawathil. During the ceremony, the chief and the councillors were prepared by members to take their oath to serve Chawathil. The council, usually with their selected family members, walked to Chawathil elders and gave them quarters in a show of respect. During this walk, the councillors and chief were wrapped in blankets, each of importance and significance to Chawathil. A sacred ceremony followed in which the council were spiritually cleansed for their new role. After being cleansed, the new council took their oaths, each swearing to serve and protect Chawathil, before giving their own speeches.
“I want to thank our council,” says Florence during his first speech as chief. “I’m looking forward to working with you this term. And working with our neighbouring nations…and I want to recognize our previous leadership, over the years, all the way to my grandfather.”
This is Florence’s first term as chief and he takes over from Rhoda Peters, who was chief last term. Of the council members, Pete is the only one new to council.
Councillors were elected on Sept. 13 by Chawathil band members either online through www.onefeather.org or in-person at the band house. Five members ran for chief and 12 members ran for council. Florence ran for both councillor and chief and Tim Peters, who got the most votes for councillor, was elected as vice chief.
The swearing-in is Chawathil’s first major gathering in two years, since the start of COVID-19, and the community says they look forward to restarting many programs and events that were put on hold because of the restrictions.