Saanich moves to recognize First Nations

Addressing first peoples on Saanich council's agenda

Saanich is looking to create a proper recognition of the Wsanec families of the Coast Salish Nation with a plan to acknowledge the first peoples with a  ceremonial address at formal gatherings.

The recommendation, expected to gain council’s approval Monday, came from first-term Coun. Fred Haynes, and suggested staff undertake a consultation process with First Nations members of the region with a goal of suitably recognizing their history here.

There are at least seven First Nations whose traditional territories are in Saanich including Pauquachin, Tsawout, Tsartlip, Tseycum, Malahat, Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

“Saanich has yet to take the step of formally acknowledging the rich and long history of our first peoples,” Haynes said. “The municipality recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in a manner that should also be reserved to celebrate its aboriginal heritage.”

The recommendation calls for a consultation process with those First Nations who have a history of traditional uses of the land and waters of the District of Saanich with the intent of recognizing this heritage in the opening of Saanich meetings. However, Haynes would be happy to see the recognition go further, in the form of a sign, or signage, depicting the history at municipal hall.

Kevin Albers is the CEO of M’akola Development Services, which works to find affordable housing for First Nations people in the region.

M’akola knows a thing or two about gathering First Nations representatives, as it will ensure representation from all the First Nations which identify with having traditional territories at public gatherings or announcements in Saanich.

“I am thrilled to hear Saanich is having this conversation and acknowledging the First Nations in the area,” Albers said. “In our practise it is important to acknowledge, engage and respect each nation whose land we are working on.”

Furthermore, Haynes says there is some dispute over an incorrectly documented history of who did what, how, and when, in the area.

Following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in June, this is a necessary move for Saanich, he added.

“One of the issues that I am keen on is that this isn’t a top-down placement of the wording. Rather, we want to work directly with the First Nations in a consultative manner to recognize the rich and deep First Nations’ heritage in Saanich.”

That includes seasonal settlements, harvesting, hunting and gathering and trading sites.

“With the need for truth and reconciliation across the country, it’s certainly necessarily for Saanich to recognize the heritage of the people who used the lands where we enjoy our lives today,” Haynes said.