Meet Acadia First Nation's only new councillor

·3 min read

The newest member of Acadia First Nation's band council is also the youngest and hopes to use her position to inspire other young people to pursue politics.

Natteal Battiste, 28, was sworn in last week after winning a seat in the Nov. 21 election.

She's the only new member of the nine-person chief and council.

Battiste said engaging with young people who live in the many communities that make up Acadia First Nation is one of her priorities, as is shaking up how elections are held in the future.

"I do see that there's a shift with our younger population wanting to get involved in politics, and that's what I really want to encourage and hope that I'm able to motivate for the next election," she said Monday.

Ahead of November's election, Battiste told CBC Radio's Information Morning that new people running to be on council didn't have access to the contact list for voters like incumbents did.

Hoped to see more new faces

With a very large portion of the First Nation's roughly 1,500 members living off-reserve, she said it made it difficult for new candidates to reach potential voters.

"It is unfortunate that there wasn't more [new councillors] that were sworn in, I will say that," Battiste said.

"I do wish that all of our areas were covered very evenly, having a representative from each area ... but that doesn't take away from my excitement that I have this opportunity of making a meaningful change."

Acadia First Nation's eight councillors and one chief serve five-year terms. Chief Deborah Robinson was first elected as chief in 1987 and was re-elected last month along with seven other incumbent councillors.

As a newcomer to politics, Battiste said the five-term will give her enough time to learn the ropes.

Born in Boston, grew up in Yarmouth area

Battiste was born in Boston and moved to the Yarmouth reserve where she lived for 10 years. In 2010, she moved to Halifax to study psychology at St. Mary's University.

According to a bio on Acadia First Nation's website, she started the Aboriginal student society at SMU and hosted the university's first sacred fire and tobacco offering ceremony for students.

Battiste now lives in Dartmouth, and said living off-reserve can make it harder to access support and community resources.

"You do feel kind of excluded when you are off-reserve, which means up to 90 per cent of our members could feel they don't have a connection to their heritage," she told CBC's Information Morning before the election.

Her mission is to bring young members of Acadia First Nation together, no matter where they live, so they can learn from one another, she said.

"Just connecting us one to another so we can start creating more deep-rooted relationships in the spread-out areas of southwest Nova Scotia."