BRITISH COLUMBIA

Pauline Goertzen, White Candidate, Runs For Burns Lake Indian Chief

01/20/2014 02:05 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
Pauline Goertzen

A northern B.C. First Nation could elect a white woman as chief next month, with the support of a number of community elders.

Pauline Goertzen was nominated as a candidate in a byelection for chief councillor of the Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation (also known as the Burns Lake Band) after a meeting last week.

If elected on Feb. 11, she would oversee a community of just under 130 people whose reserve is located about 226 kilometres west of Prince George. "(It's) humbling and a huge responsibility," Goertzen told The Huffington Post B.C. on Monday.

She's running to replace Chief Albert Gerow, who stepped down last month to take a job with TransCanada Pipelines, The Georgia Straight reported.

Goertzen, who would be the band's first white elected official, runs a small business providing community development and anti-racism facilitation. She has worked with the First Nation for 16 years.

She said members approached her to run for the job because she has no vested interest in some internal conflicts that have divided the community.

Goertzen has no indigenous heritage but she said the Indian Act presents no barriers to her candidacy.

"Elders have assured me that an Indian Act system isn't an indigenous system," she said. "When we're talking about traditional law, customs, potlatch, clan houses, I would never get involved in that, but when it comes to running a band-based corporation, I know how to do that."

Also running for chief is former councillor Wesley Sam.

The successful candidate's term would only last eight months before general elections are held in October.

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