Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Sto:lo Nation official wants more cities to recognize unceded First Nations territory

by Stephen Hui


Vancouver is “setting an example” for other municipalities by looking at formally acknowledging that the city lies on the unceded traditional territory of three First Nations, according to a Sto:lo Nation official.

David Schaepe, director and senior archaeologist of the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre and technical advisor for the Sto:lo Xwexwilmexw Treaty Association, told the Georgia Straight he hopes “all” municipalities in Sto:lo territory will “follow suit”. The Sto:lo Nation is composed of 11 First Nations in the Fraser Valley.

“There’s some significant municipalities in this area, and within them, I would say, significant holes or gaps in the recognition of the aboriginal peoples—particularly Sto:lo peoples—that historically and continually have occupied the places within those municipal boundaries,” Schaepe said by phone from Chilliwack.

Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer put forward the motion recognizing that the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh were “never ceded through treaty, war, or surrender”. It calls for city staff to work with First Nations representatives to develop “appropriate protocols” for city business that respect their traditions. Council is expected to vote on the motion at its meeting on Wednesday (June 25).

Reimer told the Straight the city heard much about the harms of colonization during the Year of Reconciliation, which ended on June 20.

“This seemed the logical next step to take,” Reimer said by phone.

While the Sto:lo people assert aboriginal rights and title to the area extending from Vancouver to Yale, Schaepe noted they recognize that the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh hold the “primary relationships” in Vancouver. He called Reimer’s motion a “very positive” development, especially since First Nations are “struggling” to achieve “high level” recognition from the Canadian and B.C. governments.

Schaepe said he’d like to see the governments of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, and Mission formally acknowledge they sit on Sto:lo territory.

“There’s a limited recognition to—in some cases—almost no recognition of the relationship with the aboriginal peoples within those municipal boundaries,” Schaepe said, “and it’s not fair and it’s not healthy.”

Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman and Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz were unavailable for comment.

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