Pete Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, is running for district council.
Erickson was a councillor with the Nak’azdli Band in 2010; however, he says most of his work in the community comes from his role as a hereditary chief.
He wants to help bridge the gap between the district and the First Nations community in Fort St. James. He says both communities have many mirrored organizations, but rarely work together. For example, each community has its own Chamber of Commerce.
“We have separate committees for the different celebrations during the year. We have education departments that work together, sort of, as needed; but we don’t actually have joint programs. And I think when we’re looking at everything, from the housing shortage in the region to engineering challenges trying to get the new sewer system, working apart is not helping anything.”
He says working apart slows down all of these important projects.
“We don’t have a partnership,” adds Erickson, who works as the natural resource sector liaison for the Nak’azdli Whut’en and the B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. “There’s not ongoing commitment to the future. As a community, Fort St. James is not growing and I think there’s a lot to be done if a healthier conversation is started between the communities.”
He would also like to forward the conversation around the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the area. He says it is something which must be addressed in order to achieve the dream everyone had “when Fort St. James came into being” in 1806.
He says even in the private sector, there has never been full unity between the two communities in Fort St. James. “The other day, we were trying to look at a true [economic] partnership within the communities, and we don’t have one. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Beyond bridging the gap, Erickson wants to look at ways to keep youth in the community. He is the father of two teenagers. He says he would like to look at the future and try to find a way for the local youth to stay home, but still be able to do things like start businesses and help build the community.
Part of the reason Erickson decided to run was also to engage voters. “I noticed the possibility of acclamation, and I just think there’s enough work to be done within our communities to generate an interest within the current political body and get people out to vote. Getting people interested in what’s happening in their communities is important, and I just don’t think having people acclaimed is healthy for any community.”
Erickson says his family has been in the area for approximately 10,000 years, according to a study done on the Nak’azdli Band. He says he has a long-term commitment to the area, and believes that he offers a new perspective and fresh energy as a leader within the local First Nations community. “Our family ties are really deep here.”