Taku River Tlingit First Nation picks new leader

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C. have a new spokesperson. Louise Gordon was elected to the position on Monday after receiving 71, or 48.6 per cent, of 155 total votes.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C. have a new spokesperson.

Louise Gordon was elected to the position on Monday after receiving 71, or 48.6 per cent, of 155 total votes.

Gordon beat incumbent John Ward, who received 57 votes, and Tina Brooks, who received 27 votes.

Sylvester Jack, Jr. and Marilyn Jack will join Gordon on the First Nation’s Clan Directors’ Council, while Antonia Welch and Caitlin O’Shea were acclaimed as Crow Clan directors.

Gordon and the directors will be sworn in on June 15.

A former band manager and director of lands and resources for the First Nation, Gordon said she ran for spokesperson because she wants to see positive change.

“People are crying for healing in the community,” she said.

“They’re ready to heal. The healing plan must be for the community, by the community.

“We can’t just bring someone in who says ‘I know exactly how to help you.’”

A lot of that pain comes from residential school experiences, and the distressing situations that arise as a result of those experiences, she said.

She’d also like to see more community involvement. Gordon alleges that the First Nation’s constitution wasn’t always followed in the past, and that citizens weren’t as involved as they should have been.

She also addressed the First Nation’s unemployment rate, which hovers around 70 per cent – a much higher figure than in the past, she said.

“When I started out as band manager, I was taught that we were working to provide a sustainable future for our people,” she said.

“Today, some of our people are unemployed, not meeting their basic needs and we have a much higher budget (than we used to).

“How could that happen?”

In terms of plans to stimulate economic development, Gordon said she couldn’t give too much away because she hadn’t met with her counterparts at the First Nation.

“I am not ready to comment on TRTFN mandates until the new council is sworn in.”

According to the First Nation’s constitution, the spokesperson takes direction from the clan director’s council, and the council gets its directors and mandates from joint clan meetings.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place in the fall.

But she did say that she’d like to see the construction of a new Tlingit traditional culture building during her three-year term.

“We’d like to revive our culture, and revitalize our language,” Gordon said.

Born and raised in Atlin, Gordon has lived in the tiny northern B.C. community almost all her life.

In her role as band manager from 1983 to 1993, she says she helped jump-start the First Nation’s health and social programs. “I was instrumental in helping build the nation into what it is today,” she said.

“When I first started out, people were still using outhouses. That was my first project – getting indoor plumbing into everybody’s houses.”

Gordon moved on to working at Yukon College in the 1990s, where she audited the First Nations management program.

As a budget consultant she’s worked with almost every First Nation in the territory, she said.

Gordon eventually moved back to Atlin in 1999, where she’s been since.

She’s also been involved as a dancer with the Taku Kwaan Dancers for over a decade.

Gordon is the daughter of former Taku River Tlingit First Nation chief Sylvester Jack.

“My dad was a strong believer in working together as a community, and he’s passed that down to me,” she said.

Contact Myles Dolphin at