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Bessie Chassé elected as new chief of White River First Nation

“I was happy that the membership saw that I was ready for this position.”
Maura Forrest/Yukon News File photos from Beaver Creek White River First Nation

Bessie Chassé has been named the new chief of White River First Nation, with Dwayne Broeren elected deputy chief.

Voting took place on February 25 and February 27 with a swearing-in ceremony on March 24 and results officially released on April 16.

“I feel nervous because it’s a big responsibility, but overall I was happy that the membership saw that I was ready for this position. And just happy that they were wanting to put that responsibility on me,” said Chassé on April 20.

In her speech following her swearing-in, Chassé thanked her family and White River First Nation for the support. She referenced her grandmother Bessie Jones, an elder and mentor who encouraged her to serve the community.

“I remember being a little girl and I remember her telling me that I’ll always be here for White River. That I was going to be part of the change. Every time I thought about leaving my Grandma’s voice is in the back of my head saying basically, I have to stay,” she said.

Chassé said she planned to continue building relationships in order to move forward in a positive way. She referenced a future for upcoming generations, including her own children.

Other new councillors elected include Charles Eikland Sr., Michael Neiman and Jolenda Johnny. Alternates are Stan Peters and Quanah VanderMeer.

Chassé said the community in Beaver Creek is small, at around 80 people, and has faced challenges as a border community during COVID-19.

White River is one of the few First Nations within the territory that does not have a final agreement.

Chassé said the newly elected councillors have agreed on three main priorities.

“This is something that me and the counselors are able to talk about,” she said. “One is economic development for Beaver Creek. Second, is trying to focus a little bit more on the youth. For example, how to keep them busy and create jobs for them, and how to get involved with the First Nation. The third one is unity.”

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