Wayne Sparrow is the new chief of the Musqueam Indian Band.
The longtime member of the band’s council and commercial fisherman was elected Monday night and will replace his father-in-law Ernest Campbell, who held the position for the past 14 years.
“I was happy,” he said when he learned at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday that he was elected chief, almost six hours after the polls closed.
Of 560 ballots cast, Sparrow, 48, said he received 211 votes to second-place finisher Wade Grant, who had 151 votes. Sparrow’s sister Gail finished with 97 votes. Nolan Charles and Chrystal Sparrow finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Sparrow said he ran a frugal campaign, with a few signs, and pointed out he was away hunting deer for upcoming ceremonial dances for most of the campaign.
Unlike his nephew Wade, who ran a comprehensive social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter, Sparrow’s approach was simple.
“I said, ‘If the people don’t know who I am by now, going around and talking to them isn’t going to make any difference,’” said Sparrow, who doesn’t own a smartphone and is not on Facebook. “I just actually learned how to text about three years ago. I still have my old little flip phone.”
Sparrow has been the chairperson of the band’s housing and fisheries committees and continues to be a member of both. He’s the current chairperson of the recreation committee.
His goal over his two-year term is to work collaboratively with the 10-member council — all of whom, except for two members were re-elected — and see through the band’s development projects.
In 2008, the B.C. government finalized a landmark deal with the Musqueam involving the transfer of a number of parcels of land back to the band.
The parcels included the UBC Golf Course lands, property near Sea Island Way in Richmond and two parcels of land from Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
The band is considering building housing, a hotel and a retail village on a 22-acre parcel between University Boulevard and Acadia Road. An open house is scheduled for Dec. 6 at the University Golf Club.
“We need those properties to become self-sufficient and to start creating revenue for our band members,” said Sparrow, noting 245 members are on the waiting list for housing on the reserve in southwest Vancouver.
Achieving self-government has been a longtime goal of the band and Sparrow, whose late father Willard was a former chief, said he will continue to work to that end.
The band has had a bigger media profile this year than in previous because of an ongoing land dispute between the Musqueam and private property owners in Marpole.
Intact remains of two adults and two infants, believed to be ancestors of the band, were discovered on a piece of property on Southwest Marine Drive earlier this year.
The band wants to purchase the land from the property owners, who had plans to build a condominium complex on the site, but no deal has been reached.
“It’s been a real stressful process for our band members to have our ancestors being open in a grave like that with just a tarp over them,” said Sparrow, who said negotiations are still in the hands of Campbell, who remains chief until Sparrow is sworn in Jan. 3.