a national geographic proposal

HOME AND NATIVE LAND

 

The 2014 Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia has changed the course of First Nations relationships in Canada and perhaps the world. 

This story follows the Tsilhqot'in Nation, Canada's first Indigenous nation to reclaim title to their native territory. We are witnessing the transition to Native governance during this pivotal time.

Will the new social and political landscape reshape aboriginal relationships in Canada, and the post-colonial world?

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TSILHQOT'IN TITLE CASE

The Chilcotin Region is the aboriginal home of the Tsilhqot'in people; a culture rooted in tradition and relationship to the land. 

The 2014 Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the Tsilhqot’in Nation hold title to approximately 1,900 square kilometres of their traditional territory is a great triumph for the Tsilhqot'in people, and a turning point in the long journey to establish Aboriginal sovereignty.  

     

    the people of the RIVER

    The Chilcotin River sockeye salmon has been an integral component of Tsilhqot’in culture for centuries. The Stump family, from the Tl'etinqox First Nation, harvest salmon using traditional dip net techniques and preserve the fish at their family smokehouse.

     

    facing the Challenges 

    Reeling from generations of abuse in residential schools, decades of systemic oppression, and degradation of culture and tradition, the Tsilhqot'in people are working with significant challenges:

    • generational loss of traditional language and culture
    • capacity - poverty, mental health, addictions, gangs
    • leadership and governance gaps 
     

    MY SISTER, a tsilhqot'in woman

    My sister is a psychotherapist working for the Tsilhqot'in Nation. Her work in the community has been transformational for her and the leadership of the Tsilhqot'in Nation. In 2016, she was adopted in a traditional ceremony and given a Tsilhqot'in name. This is the first case of non-native adoption in the history of the Nation. The elders have accepted her in their inner circles and shared sacred knowledge as she delicately moves into a role of eldership.

     

    equine culture and traditional land-based Programs 

    Chief Joe Alphonse supports a range of cultural activities and programs aimed at reinforcing tradition and culture. Tsilhqot’in gatherings happen throughout the summer season; as commemorations on sacred lands, and as culture camps where knowledge and traditions are shared with the youth. A groundbreaking Equine Gestalt Therapy program is underway as the Nation moves toward greater health and stability.

     

    linguistics and legends - archiving a vanishing culture 

    The Tsilqhot'in language is spoken by very few. As with most indigenous cultures, the language holds context for history, and identity. From a western, english language perspective, the story of the Tsilqhot'in people reads like a Castaneda book, describing lineage and legend in terms unfathomable to outsiders. As the elders grow old, and the younger generations have lost their native language (the residential school program was integral to this loss), the intention is to archive the language in situ, through multigenerational gatherings, and create accompanying footage for context.

    This project is in early exploration stages with the linguistics department at Harvard University.

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    eniyud community forest - a groundbreaking PARTNERSHIP 

    The Tatla Resource Association has come together with our neighbours, Alexis Creek Tsi Del Del First Nation, to manage our surrounding forest. This partnership between native and non-native stakeholders is one of the first of its kind.

    Through the Eniyud Community Forest initiative, the Tatla Resource Association and Tsi Del Del First Nation endeavor to work together on a sustainable local economy while protecting the biodiversity and natural beauty of the area. This intricate balance is at the heart of the partnership.

    We aim to develop non-timber forest products as an alternative form of revenue, with a sharp focus on preservation and science. Our intention is to create value from the integrity of this vast natural landscape, as opposed to relying on logging as the main resource. 

    The Tsilhqot'in National Government (TNG) has commissioned local natives to act as rangers on title land. This has sparked controversy within our region and further afield, as questions arise on governance, hierarchy of government issued hunting/fishing licenses, and recreational access to the land.

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    FOREST HEALTH and climate change

    Our forests face significant challenges due to climate change, industry, and fire suppression. The long life cycle of evergreens makes it difficult for them to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The Forest Health Consultant for the Eniyud Community Forest monitors the health of our forest, and is a key player in designing our partnership with Tsi Del Del.

     

    Wildfires 2017

    On July 7th 2017, a lightning storm struck dry forests and hundreds of wildfires broke out across BC. Fuelled by pine beetle kill and dry weather, the fires spread quickly and burned intensely, prompting the BC government to declare a state of emergency.

    Our community came together with Tsi Del Del First Nation, and our joint response was an extraordinary demonstration of local knowledge, organization, collaboration and capability.

    Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tl'etinqox Nation defied Police orders to evacuate and a stand off with the Ministry of Children and Families began.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/refuse-to-leave-evacuation-order-bc-wildfires-1.4200279

    The unprecedented wildfires of 2017 have exposed challenges on many levels:

    • title land management and governance vs RCMP and Canadian governmental agencies
    • evacuations, safety and effectiveness
    • climate change and appropriate fire fighting strategy
     

    in summary

    This is a long term project offering an inside look at a movement toward true reconciliation. The Tsilhqot'in title case creates a dynamic that has not yet been seen in the post-colonial world. 

    It is also a study on identity, and the blurred roles of 'native' vs 'non-native' status in the context of a globalized world. 

    Our relationship to the Chief, as well as our access to both the reservations and the non-native community allow us to explore this story in depth from both angles.  

    • How can the transition to native governance serve as an opportunity to reshape aboriginal relationships in Canada and the post-colonial world?
    • How will native governance function in collaboration with Canadian federal and provincial government?
    • Does this transition prove to be a pivotal moment toward greater health in First Nations communities, a resurgence of native culture, and true reconciliation with Canada?
    • Can this be used as a model in America, Australia, and other 'New World' nations?