Monday, September 22, 2014
Text Size

From $80K to $45K, First Nations chiefs’ salaries vary

By: Cam Fortems

Release of First Nations financial documents by the federal government shows a wide discrepancy in salaries of regional First Nations leaders, ranging from a high of $80,000 to a low of $45,000 — with little relationship between the size of the community and the chief’s income.


Tk’emlups Indian Band released its financial information last month showing Shane Gottfriedson, chief of the prosperous band of 1,050, earning $82,000 a year. The band oversees millions in assets, including an industrial subdivision and the Sun Rivers golf community.

Not far behind Gottfriedson is Nelson Leon, chief of Adams Lake Indian Band, at $80,000 a year. The band has 700 members.

The lowest salary collected by a First Nations leader in the region is Ron Ignace, who leads Skeetchestn Indian Band. Ignace, who has held the position on and off for decades, earned $45,000 in the most recent year.

Skeetchestn has about 500 members. Councillors, at $43,000, earn only slightly less than the chief.

Felix Arnouse, who has led Little Shuswap band for more than 15 years earns $71,000.

There are only two councillors and a chief at the band. It has 300 members.

The typical band has six members of council.

Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, said Gottfriedson’s salary would be “on the higher end” for B.C. chiefs, but added it’s difficult to determine what an appropriate salary-to-population ratio would be because band salaries are so varied.

While regional chiefs are making five figures, Bateman said some of the province’s First Nations leaders make as little as $3,000 in salaries, while the chief of the 82-member Kwikwetlem Indian Band in Coquitlam, took home almost $1 million in pay.

“It makes it really difficult to figure out what is the average salary and what are the best practices for paying a chief and council,” Bateman said, adding the filings don’t show whether chiefs are also acting as band managers or economic development officers, or what activities they are spearheading for their members.

“You want to reward people who, frankly, are working hard to find non-government money, who are working hard to diversify their economic portfolios and doing a good job for the families on their reserves.”

Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith band earned $69,000. It has about 600 members, according to the province.

She said band council salaries are well known within the community. The rate for councillors varies by the numbers of meetings they attend.

The low within the band is Martin Sauls, who earned $25,000. Two other councillors — Joan Manuel-Hooper and Frank Denault — each earned $60,000.

Salaries earned by chief and council are not taxable.

“Martin [Sauls] is there on and off,” Wilson said. “He had other personal income not reflected there.”

Wilson said under new election rules, councillors are considered full-time. It will not be suitable, she said, for a band member who works outside.

“Now council can’t hold outside jobs. We had a councillor working three days a week and was only available [for band business] two days and evenings,” Wilson said. “How can you run a government table that way?”

Like other First Nations leaders, Wilson said band councillors cannot be compared to municipal councillors.

They have more complex portfolios, including education, heath and social services, that demand full-time attention.

Bateman said the CTF is hoping the salary information will lead to more band members voting and holding their leaders accountable.

“I think it’ll have a big effect,” he said.

“The Kwikwetlem chief has already changed the way the band will be paying him in the future, so there’s a change for the positive. And we’ve seen across the country on other reserves, elections run on what chiefs are being paid.”

By the numbers: Regional First Nations salaries:

Shane Gottfriedson, Tk’emlups (pop. 1,050): $82,000

Nelson Leon, Adams Lake (pop. 700): $80,000

Felix Arnouse, Little Shuswap (pop. 300): $71,000

Judy Wilson, Neskonlith (pop. 600): $69,000

Rita Matthew, Simpc (pop. 640): $58,000

Ron Ignace, Skeetchestn (pop. 500): $45,000

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Education & Training

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...


obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit


Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON


Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014
Sun Oct 05 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
INIHKD & Manitoba NEAHR Conference 2014


September 2014
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday


Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins