The provincial government and Cowichan (Quw’utsun) Nation, made up of five Indigenous bands, have signed an agreement to advance reconciliation, work collaboratively on key priorities and support self-determination and self-government.
Joining Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, for a signing ceremony at the B.C. Parliament Buildings on Sept. 14, 2021, were Squtxulenuhw, also known as Chief William C. Seymour Sr., of Cowichan Tribes; Whul’qul’latza’ aat, also known as Chief Roxanne Harris, of Stz’uminus First Nation; Kwaliimtunaat, also known as Chief Joan Brown, of Penelakut Tribe; Sulsimutsun, also known as Chief James Thomas, of Halalt First Nation; and Pahalicktun, also known as Chief Richard Thomas, of Lyackson First Nation.
Under the agreement the Province and Cowichan Nation will work collaboratively on key priorities, such as:
- implementing Cowichan Nation laws, traditions, customs and practices;
- advancing Cowichan Nation self-determination and self-government;
- co-operative decision-making and dispute resolution; and
- identifying opportunities for economic and socio-cultural well-being.
The agreement establishes formal governance structures, including a political forum with annual leadership meetings between Chiefs and ministers to strengthen the collaborative working relationship between the two governments, and a solutions forum to identify issues or concerns early and work together proactively to find solutions. A board to oversee implementation will also be established.
The Cowichan Nation includes Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Lyackson First Nation, Penelakut Tribe and Stz’uminus First Nation. Collectively the Cowichan Nation has almost 8,000 members.
Murray Rankin, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“Our government-to-government relationship with Cowichan Nation is based on a recognition of rights. I look forward to continuing to build our relationship so we can address challenges collaboratively and build opportunities that will benefit all members of Cowichan Nation, and everyone who lives in the territory.”
Pahalicktun, Hereditary Chief Richard Thomas, Lyackson First Nation –
“This has been a multi-generational effort, every Chief who went before us, fighting for the recognition of our Nationhood, fighting for the rights and title of our people. Today is the first step to true reconciliation for our Nation, for our Community, for our People.”
Squtxulenuhw, Chief William (Chip) Seymour, Cowichan Tribes –
“I would like to thank the government for working on this agreement. This is a bit of a process. We shouldn’t have to do this for our Aboriginal Rights and Title.”
Whul’qul’latza’aat, Chief Roxanne Harris, Stz’uminus First Nation –
“It’s important for our Nation to move forward and be progressive, to blaze a trail for our future generations.”
Kwaliimtunaat, Chief Joan Brown, Penelakut Tribe –
“The Government-to-Government Agreement is a stepping stone of combined efforts of further developing a relationship with the Province and the recognition of the Cowichan Nation’s Rights and Title. This collaborative agreement will foster tools to further advance our efforts in self-governing, to understand the opportunities as a collective, and we look forward to working with everyone.”
Sulsimutsun, Chief James R. Thomas, Halalt First Nation –
“From our Elders we learned that we need to strive to get back what was originally ours, access to our traditional resources such as our fishing grounds. It’s taken a long time to come together. This is a small part of reconciliation, the recognition of the importance with regard to the way we ran our societies prior to contact and settlement.”
Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development –
“This agreement is an important step forward for the B.C. government and the Cowichan Nation as we work toward reconciliation and shared goals and interests. It will support the advancement of Cowichan Nation’s member First Nations’ rights to self-determination, including the inherent right to self-government.”
Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan –
“We all have the shared goal of building working relationships that will empower us to work on challenging issues together through discussion and negotiation. This agreement helps set out the structures needed to address shared interests and improve communication.”
Cowichan Nation-British Columbia Government-to-Government Agreement: