"Without Land Indian People have no Soul—no Life—no Identity—no Purpose"
Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow
I am grateful to have a relationship with the Land, Water, Plants and Animals of two very distinct regions of Turtle Island. Reconciliation requires more than just stating one lives on Indigenous Land. We all must acknowledge the support and healing that the Land has offered us since time immemorial.
The city presently known as Whitehorse sits alongside the Chu Níikwän (today called the Yukon River). This region of what is now called the Yukon Territory is the ancestral home of the Tagish Kwan. This river, along with its tributary rivers and streams, has supported the original inhabitants since time immemorial. Fish camps lined Chu Níikwän where Salmon gave their lives to support the People of this Land. The Water provided travel, food, trade and so much more. Meanwhile, the Land itself supported the Plants and Animals that the Tagish Kwan relied upon for survival. More food, clothing, and shelter were provided by the Land. However, we cannot only focus on the physical sustenance that the Land and Water provided. Powerful ceremony is enacted and vital lessons are learned on the Land and Water. For millennia, the reciprocal relationship between the Tagish Kwan and their home was stable, fulfilling and intentional. The descendants of the Tagish Kwan have come to be known as the Kwanlin Dun First Nations and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council through colonial band creation.
With the creation of Whitehorse, and the influx of Settlers, this relationship has been strained. Still, the Land and Water continue to give everything they have to the inhabitants of this region -- whether they are Indigenous or Settlers. They work hard to support the current inhabitants of the area, and despite the dams and damage caused, the Salmon still attempt to return after being decimated. Much of the Land, most of it, in fact, has been removed from the gentle care of the original inhabitants and their descendants. As uninvited guests to this Land, especially without enacting Traditional Reciprocity and Respect, we continue to unilaterally benefit from the gifts of the Land. I want to take the time to acknowledge that my presence in the region ensures that I play a role in Land displacement and the industrial development that strains the Land and Water.
I am grateful for the grace that the Indigenous Peoples in the region continue to have with those of us who are uninvited, and it's my intention to make my presence less of a strain and more of a reciprocal relationship.
The city of Nanaimo is located on the ancestral territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, a group of Coast Salish Peoples. The territory encompasses the Salish Sea, which has provided for the Snuneymuxw since time immemorial. They have stewarded the Land and Water with deep respect while relying upon them and the Plants and Animals within them for food, clothing, shelter, trade and so much more. In fact, one of the sacred Medicines that we use in ceremony and smudging grows here in Coast Salish Territory -- Cedar.
Colonization in the Coast Salish People's Territory has heavily impacted the Traditional relationship that the First Peoples of this region have with the Land. The Treaty of 1854 was an attempt for the Snuneymuxw to protect their stewardship and way of life while joining the new colonizer's economy. This treaty has been undermined and ignored by "Canada," who sought the removal of the Snuneymuxw from the Land during their assimilation projects.
As I reflect on the place that I live, and the economy that I participate in, I understand my role in the continued settlement of Nanaimo and the continued colonization of the Coast Salish People's home territory. The Land, Water, Plants and Animals face significant pressures from colonial industries and the forced removal of Indigenous stewardship. As an uninvited guest to this Land, I understand my responsibility in taking part in respect, reciprocity and relationship, and I continue to do my best to live in accordance with those values.
I want to express my gratitude to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and the Snuneymuxw First Nation for sharing this Land with me. Though I understand the responsibilities of respect, reciprocity and relationship, I continue to reflect upon the impact that my presence has outside my homelands.
Mahsi, Meduh, Thank you