Tr’ondek Hwech’in pick new chief

Roberta Joseph is the new chief of Tr'ondek Hwech'in. Joseph won with 90 of the total 261 ballots cast in Monday's general election. She narrowly beat former chief Darren Taylor by five votes.

Roberta Joseph is the new chief of Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

Joseph won with 90 of the total 261 ballots cast in Monday’s general election.

She narrowly beat former chief Darren Taylor by five votes, following a recount.

The recount was required after it was discovered that mistakes had been made at the Whitehorse polling station.

“There wasn’t really a tie to begin with,” said Chief Electoral Officer Crystal Trudeau.

“Joseph’s count was good but Darren’s count was off by five votes. One councillor’s number was off by five, as well.”

Had there been a tie following the recount, Trudeau would have proceeded with a drawing of lots.

That means putting the names of both candidates into a box and pulling one out.

“I’m relieved I didn’t have to do that,” she said.

The other candidates for chief were Jay Farr and Clara Van Bibber, who received 50 and 34 votes respectively.

Joseph had finished in third place when she ran for chief in 2011.

She said she decided to run again this year because other Tr’ondek Hwech’in citizens encouraged her to.

They told her it was time for a change.

“Something that’s really important to have is a strong leadership in the community, and for the chief and council to be working together to provide that unity and strength for the community.”

For the past 10 years, Joseph has worked for the First Nation as a fish and wildlife co-ordinator, and also as general manager.

Born and raised in Dawson City, she also spent time living in Whitehorse.

One of her main goals is to educate First Nation members on their final agreement.

“There is a lot of turnover of staff and new people who may not really understand how important our final agreements are and how important it is to continue its implementation,” she said.

Another goal is to address the pressing infrastructure needs in the community.

She said those include establishing long-term plans for new housing developments and eventually, a new community hall.

“It won’t happen in my term but at least we can start working on how to budget for it,” she said.

As for the Peel watershed, Joseph said she’d continue in the footsteps of her predecessor.

Former chief Eddie Taylor, who decided not to seek a third consecutive term this year, was a champion for the cause.

Tr’ondek Hwech’in, along with the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and two conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the territorial government in January over its new plan for the Peel watershed.

“I have really strong feelings about the Peel watershed as well,” Joseph said.

“It’s a community-driven effort to ensure that our agreements are honoured and the processes within the agreements continue to be honoured as well. The Peel is very valuable to our people and it means a lot to continue to protect it as much as we can.”

Joseph will be working with a team of fresh faces for the next three years.

Only one councillor, Ryan Peterson, is returning for a second term. He received 177 votes, the most of any candidate.

He was first elected in a byelection this past spring.

Darren Bullen, Simon Nagano and Selina Procee were also elected to council.

Joseph said she’s looking forward to working with them.

“I think they will provide the good leadership we need,” she said.

Eddie Taylor, who was originally running for council, dropped out a few days before the election for unknown reasons.

Contact Myles Dolphin at