Telling Our Stories:
Story telling is the Shuswap
way of passing our history
to the next generations
The position of hereditary chief with the Williams Lake Indians was never automatically passed on to the eldest Male. Most of the time it was passed to the eldest son, but he had to have the respect and the approval of the family of the hereditary chief and the membership. Usually this son would have been prepared for many years for the position by his father, the current chief. In all instances, it was the family of the hereditary chief that decided to whom the title was to be passed on to.
If a current chief died or was deemed to be incapable because of illness, injury, wrong doing, or was not deemed to be performing his duties, the family could and did remove the title from a chief and appointed another family member. This did happen when the second Chief William fell out of favor and was replaced by his trusted friend and councillor Tomabusket for four years. Tomabusket died after four years and William II returned to position.
When the last surviving hereditary Chief, William (Adrian Tillian) died, he left one son Jack Tillian (His father’s middle name). Jack refused to become the chief and threatened to run away if he was forced to take on that responsibility (statement from Agnes Anderson). Chief Adrian Tillian William or his brother Baptiste had adopted James Louie, a nephew, and had raised him as a son. It is not clear who specifically decided to give the title of chief to James, but it was members of the William family.
Chief James Louie and his wife Ellen did not have any children, so when Chief Louie died there was no heir to pass the title of chief to. And since there were no male William heirs remaining, the William Chieftaincy lineage ended there. There were only women left from the William clan. However, at this very time, the Canadian government through the Department of Indian Affairs, imposed their system of Band elections on the Williams Lake Band people and thereafter eradicated the system of hereditary chiefs in the Williams Lake Band.
Elected councils have never had the authority to re-instate the hereditary chief system. They have never had the power to decide who is a hereditary chief. Only the family of the William clan has or had that power. Hereditary chieftainship if it were ever to be bestowed, would be done by the direct descendants of the last Chief William, Chief Adrian Tillian William.
Even if the title of chief were to automatically be passed down to the eldest child, Chief Tillian had only four surviving children, all of whom were girls. The eldest being Caroline Tillian Gilbert, followed by Rosie Tillian Vedan, then Clotilde Tillian Thomas, and the youngest Agnes Tillian Moore Anderson.
All have descendants surviving to this day. If the hereditary title were to flow to the eldest, without regard to gender, that would go to Caroline Gilbert then to her heirs.
Since the passing of James Louie, the last hereditary chief, no one has ever been given the title of hereditary chief by the William Family. So regardless of what any elected Band Council or what any self-appointed group says The Williams Lake Band does not and will not have a hereditary chief unless direct descendant family members were to decide.
The preceding is what we, the direct descendants of Chief Adrian Tillian William, know to our best knowledge as the way the hereditary chiefs system was when the last hereditary Chief of Sugar Cane died.