Two old building with a wooden fence in a clearing, with trees behind

SRD acknowledges Kwiakah and Tla’amin First Nations

The Kwiakah and Tla’amin First Nations are now recognized in Strathcona Regional District (SRD) territorial acknowledgements. The SRD added their names in response to strong requests from both nations. A series of motions to this effect were passed at the July 19 SRD Board meeting, in Campbell River.  

The SRD corporate office in Campbell River – courtesy Google Maps

Most of the Kwiakah’s 21 members now live in Campbell River, where their band office is located.

On June 2  Frank Voelker, Band Manager of the Kwiakah First Nation, wrote the SRD, “Together the Kwiakah, Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai form the Ligwilda’xw Nation. We are the smallest member Nation, and we are too often forgotten. Kwiakah’s core territory stretches from Phillips Arm (Matsayno Indian Reserve #5 and other former Kwiakah village sites in the Inlet) into parts of Bute Inlet and also includes treaty-selected lands on the southern part of Stuart Island.”  

“In the spirit of fairness and accuracy, our community strongly recommends that Kwiakah be represented in the SRD First Nations Territorial Acknowledgement (verbal and written form) and any other regional documents concerning Electoral Area C.”

At the SRD Board’s July 19th meeting, Regional Directors Mark Vonesch of Cortes Island (Area B) Robyn Mawhinney of Area C moved that “the verbal territorial acknowledgements for Sonora Island, Stuart Island, Bute Inlet and Toba Inlet, in Electoral Area C, be amended to read as follows: ‘I would like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded traditional territories of the Homalco and Kwiakah First Nations.’”

The motion passed, with no opposition.  

At their inaugural meeting, on January 25 of this year, the SRD’s First Nation’s Committee expressed hesitations about including the Tla’amin Nation in SRD territorial acknowledgements. 

This elicited a strong response from Hegus (Chief) John Hackett, who wrote, “Electoral Areas B, C, and D of the Strathcona Regional District all encompass areas included in the Tla’amin Area, as outlined and recognized in Appendix A of the Tla’amin Treaty. The Tla’amin Treaty is a constitutionally protected agreement under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. The Treaty does not extinguish Tla’amin’s existence to these lands, it reinforces them. As you may know, there is a parcel of Tla’amin treaty land on Cortes Island, which Tla’amin has full jurisdiction over. This parcel is well within the boundaries of the SRD. Tla’amin has occupied our territory, which now includes boundaries of the SRD, since time immemorial.” 

“Refusing to acknowledge Tla’amin’s millennia-long relationship to the land that SRD now represents in an example of colonial erasure of Indigenous peoples.” 

The SRD Board responded on July 19.

Director Mawhinney moved “that the Tla’amin First Nation be added to the verbal and written territorial acknowledgement for Electoral Area B, and that the territorial acknowledgements for Electoral Area C and D be revisited following further consultation motion.”   

Director Vonesch seconded the motion, which passed.  

This led to a motion to include both the Kwiakah and Tla’amin First Nations in the SRD acknowledgement 

Director Mawhinney: “That the written territorial acknowledgement for the regional district be amended to read as follows, ‘the Strathcona Regional District respectfully acknowledges that our corporate office and the Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex are located on the traditional unceded territory of the Laichwiltach people.”

“We also recognize that we operate within the traditional, treaty and unceded territories of the Ehattesaht, Homalco, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’t1es7et’h’, Klahoose, K’omoks, Kwiakah, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Nuchatlaht, Tlowitsis, Tla’amin We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations.”

Regional Director Gerald Whalley seconded the motion, which carried. 

Top image credit: Paukeanum (‘place where maple leaves turn brown’) Tla’amin Indian Reserve #3 (est. 1916) on Cortes Island – Photo taken by Miss Lettice, courtesy Cortes Island Museum

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