Chief and Council

We are T’exelcemc (Williams Lake Nation people), members of the Secwepemc Nation

The Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), or the T’exelcemc (people of WLFN) have belonged to the Secwepemc (or Shuswap) Nation for over 6500 years.

Today, the WLFN community includes a growing population of over 800 registered members who live on reserve in Sugar Cane, in nearby Williams Lake, BC, and across the globe. One of 17 Secwepemc nations forming Secwepemculecw, the greater stewardship land area extends from Shuswap Lake in the south, to Quesnel Lake in the north, and from Columbia-Kootenay Range in the east, to the Alexis Creek area in the west. Since time immemorial, our Kukpi7s (Chiefs) led a strong people, and they do so today. 

We are Culturally Centered, Future Focused.

Chief and Council

Willie Sellars was born and raised in Williams Lake, BC and is a member of the Williams Lake First Nation (“WLFN” or “T’exelc”) of the Secwepemc Nation. Elected onto WLFN Council at the age of 24 in 2008, Willie was one of the youngest elected Councillors in WLFN history. After serving 10 years on Council he was elected as the Chief of the Williams Lake First Nation in 2018 and is currently in his first term. In his previous work experience, Willie worked as a Wildland Firefighter for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations before returning to his community to assume the position of Special Project Coordinator in the WLFN Economic Development Department. During this time he was responsible for new business initiatives flowing from Impact Benefit Agreements, engagement with proponents in the traditional territory and community consultation for major WLFN projects.

Willie is also a published author of “Dipnetting with Dad,” which won a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Chocolate Lily, Shining Willow, and Ontario Library Association awards. His next book, “Hockey with Dad,” is due to be released in the Fall of 2021. Willie enjoys his family time with his three kids, playing hockey with the Williams Lake Stampeders, attending community events at WLFN, dipnetting, and playing fastball.


Shawna Philbrick is Secwepemc and Tsilhqotin. She is from Williams Lake First Nation and comes from the hereditary Family of Late Chief William in which the City of Williams Lake is named after. She is a mother of two beautiful children and is currently continuing her education in the Human Resource field.

She was born and raised in the Cariboo and takes great pride living in her community and raising both her children here where they have the privilege of learning their Secwepemc language, culture, traditions and learning from our respected elders. Shawna and her children enjoy taking part and volunteering in all events that happen in this stunning community.

Shawna has been employed with Williams Lake First Nations since 2006 as Youth Coordinator, Natural Resources Coordinator and now as an Employment Coordinator. In her 15 years of employment with WLFN she has built great relationships with community members, elders and local business.

Over the years she has developed her personal and business skills, understood where there were gaps in the community and observed best practices and phenomenal leadership from WLFN which encouraged her to run for council for WLFN.

Shawna chose to run for council because she is truly invested in the community, and wants it to thrive for many generations to come and for her kids and others in the community have pride in the work WLFN leadership is doing.  She is pushing for the continuation of economic development, self-determination, and to find a healthy way to combine Secwepemc ways with Western ways, which she says will ultimately lead our resilient community to a happier and healthier state.


JoAnne is the granddaughter of the last hereditary Chief, Chief James Louie and her maternal grandmother, Josephine Bob nee Wycotte was the first female councillor to be elected. JoAnne says her grandmother was the matriarch of the community, coordinated many events and was a knowledge keeper for culture and spirituality, which in turn, influenced JoAnne to run for council. She is currently serving her sixth year as a councillor.

JoAnne graduated from the University of BC in 1997 with a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Archeology. She was the valedictorian for her graduating class for the Native Indian Teacher Education Program. She is also close to obtaining her Master’s degree. She is currently employed as the Lead Teacher at Little Chiefs Primary School.

In her spare time, JoAnne enjoys quilting and making and teaching others how to make ceremonial blankets.


Chris was born and raised in the Williams Lake area. He graduated from High School in 1970 and not long after that started a career in Auto Body Repair. After 14 years, he left to attend University, majoring in History and Political Sciences. On his return back to Williams Lake he began working for Williams Lake First Nation as an Economic Development Officer and has been here ever since. Having held several different positions over the years, Chris now works as the Treaty Manager.

Chris is married and has five children and sixteen grandchildren. He says he enjoys being a councellor as he strives to look after the wellbeing of the community for future generations. When he finishes his current term in August 2024, he will have spent 21 years as an elected councillor for WLFN.


Rick was born and raised on the Sugar Cane reservation and was the first ever Band Manager in 1972. He was also the elected Chief from 1974-1982 and 1988-1992. Rick wanted to become involved as a councillor as he saw things that needed to be done and he wanted to step in and make that happen.

Some of his most notable achievements was securing funding to build the original Band Office in 1974 and the Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium in 1977. Rick moved away from the area in 1999 and spent some time living in Mississippi but returned to Sugar Cane in 2012 and has been a councillor ever since.


Councillor Shae Chelsea is the daughter of Denise Tait and Vernon Michel, and William Sellars Sr. and Elizabeth Paul. She is the granddaughter of Douglas and Gladys Tait, Bill and Martha Sellars, Frank and Elsie Michel.

She is a mother of three, she strives to help create a world they can grow up in a healthy community with their culture and traditions. She grew up in the community and has lived there her entire life, until buying a house in Williams Lake in 2016.

Shae finished her Bachelor of Social Work Degree in 2020, Human Service diploma in 2015, as well as a certificate in Education Assistant and Community Support in 2014. She worked with the youth since she was 17 years old, she also has a background in the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse program. She is now working for Knucwentwecw Society as a Social Worker, for three of the Secwepemc communities in the north.


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