Lydia Hwitsum is the new chief of Cowichan Tribes after the election of chief and councillors that was held on Friday, Feb. 25.
Hwitsum is not new to the role of chief of Cowichan Tribes, having served as chief for a total of eight years; from 1998 to 2001, and again from 2007 to 2011.
Hwitsum, who is a lawyer, also co-founded the Cowichan Watershed Board during her tenure as chief.
During her career, she was elected to the BC First Nations Summit executive and has been on the board of directors of the BC Assembly of First Nations, and also served as board chair of the First Nations Health Authority.
Hwitsum was also the Green Party candidate in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding in the federal election in 2019, but lost to incumbent NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor.
She garnered 25.2 per cent of the vote for chief with 241 votes, with 10 candidiates vying for the position in the last week’s election.
Cindy Daniels, who was acting chief for a period before the election, came second in the vote for chief with 125 votes, and long-time Chief William Seymour, who had held the position since 2013, came third with 113 votes.
Out of the 74 candidates for the 12 council seats, 10 of the incumbents kept their seats.
They are Francine Alphonse (272 votes), Stephanie Atleo (270 votes), Albie Joe Charlie (230 votes), Jen Charlie (216 votes), Cindy Daniels (334 votes), Howie George (343 votes), Stuart Pagaduan (362 votes), Calvin Swustus Sr. (229 votes), Calvin Swustus Jr. (342 votes), and Dora Wilson (229 votes).
Darin George, who served as councillor from 2009-2013 and 2015-2019, was elected with 247 votes and Hwitsum took the final council seat with 309 votes.
Out of the new board, four members also ran unsuccessfully for the position of chief in the election.
They are Stephanie Atleo, Cindy Daniels, Howie George and Stuart Pagaduan
Incumbents Craig George and North Cowichan Councillor Debra Toporowski, who also ran for chief, were not re-elected.
The election was originally scheduled to be held on Dec. 3, 2021, but was postponed until Feb. 25 due to a technical error with the database that creates the First Nation’s voter list, resulting in some voters failing to receive notice of the election on Dec. 3 and an election package.