Five candidates will challenge incumbent for chief of Penticton Indian Band

Two current councillors among those on the ballot in Oct. 24 election

Along with Penticton Indian Band Chief Kruger, two members of the current council will also be vying for the position of chief when the band holds elections later this month.

Laurie Wilson, who holds the social development portfolio on the current PIB council, and Joseph Pierre, who holds the education, technology and culture portfolios, have both accepted nomination for chief.

Wilson, who holds a law degree and works as a family law advocate, said her name came up as a possibility for chief during the last election, four years ago, but she decided to run for council and spend a term getting to know how things worked.

While Kruger has done a good job, she said she has a different concept of how the chief and council should work. Right now, she feels that there is a gap between the council and the community, something that doesn’t fit with traditional values.

“The chief is meant to be part of the council, and the spokesman,” she said. Having the chief following provincial and federal bureaucratic styles, she said, “is not conducive to our communal way of thinking.”

“I am very proud of our chief and council,” she said, adding that while they have accomplished a lot in the last four years, she would like to see a greater focus on community. “A new way of leadership that puts forward the amazing strengths we have.”

Along with major economic developments that PIB council is working on, Wilson said she would have liked to see things like the development of a reserve store, a place where the band’s many artisans, crafters, etc. could market their products.

When Joseph Pierre was elected to council, he was just 20 years old and the youngest councillor elected in the history of the band.

“Being 24 would make me one of the youngest chiefs. I am not sure if I would be the youngest, I think I might be close,” said Pierre. “I find the role of chief to be an interesting one and I told myself if the community saw fit to nominate me for chief, I should honour their request.”

The current council, he said, has done amazing work as a group. Along with continuing to work on established goals, he plans to look for new goals. “so we have that desire out there for that next goal and keep the band moving forward.”

Pierre said that the opening of the new Outma Squilx’w Cultural School was one of those goals and the result of many years of work by the band.

“It was a lot of hard work by previous councils to get us to the point of where we were at with the school,” said Pierre, describing it as a major accomplishment for himself and council. “Another is being able to serve and allow my voice to be heard within the council itself.”

Though young, Pierre said he has received the support of community elders.

“They understand that the next generation, which is mine and the one following us, we’re starting to become interested in what is happening to our communities at a younger age,” said Pierre. “We’re taking a bigger stand on what is going on. They see that and they quite enjoy that we are establishing our voices at an earlier age.”

Youth, Pierre continued, doesn’t prevent him from having leadership qualities.

“This generation, we know that we are leaders and are willing to be heard and willing to do the work behind what we say,” he said.

While never having been a member of PIB council, Joe Johnson has considerable experience with the political system at national, provincial and local levels. He’s currently the director of public works and operations for the Okanagan Indian Band, having started there last October after spending six years working for the province of Manitoba.

His career, however, started in the construction industry after the chief and council of the day decided to send him to complete a civil engineering degree.

“That was a decision that impacted the entire community, that I was permitted to go meant other people had to stay behind,” Johnson said.  “Throughout my career, I have always tried to find a way to pay that back.”

Along with his work in Manitoba, Johnson said he spent many years as the development manager for a native housing society, building affordable native housing. Then he moved to the national scene.

“I was lucky enough to spend several years with the national chief’s office at the Assembly of First Nations, building my understanding of the politics of the country, certainly sharpening my political acumen,” said Johnson, who admits that he has been gone for a long time.

When chief and council sent me away, I didn’t come back. I understand that I am a stranger to a large portion of the voting demographic. So if this is going to be a popularity contest, I’ve already lost,” he said. “If this is going to be a contest about issues, about skill sets, about vision … I would like to engage in that.

Johnson, Pierre, Wilson and Kruger, along with the two other candidates, Arnie Baptiste and Lavern Jack, will be taking part in an all-candidates forum on Oct. 17, starting at 7 p.m. in the PIB community hall.

The election will take place on Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the community hall with advanced polls scheduled for Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.