Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Metro Vancouver recently co-hosted a Community-to-Community Forum featuring presentations from Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Metro Vancouver, cultural performances, and activities designed to build understanding and strengthen connections between individuals.
On May 13th, Metro Vancouver staff and directors, local politicians, and representatives of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation gathered at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Community Centre for a Community to Community Forum. The goal of the event was to strengthen bonds of understanding and mutual respect at an individual level. This objective was highlighted in the opening remarks of Ralph Hildebrand, Metro Vancouver GM – Legal and Legislative Services/Corporate Counsel.
“The goal of this morning is not to come away with data about each other’s nation, or about each other’s business, or about each other’s undertakings. What we want to come away with is a foundation in terms of a relationship.”
Tradition Shares Stage with Focus on Future
Tsleil-Waututh councillor Charlene Aleck drew upon the words of her grandfather Chief Dan George to offer an opening prayer to guide the attendees and then chief Maureen Thomas spoke about the future-focused approach of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
“By building these relationships with the municipalities within this area, when they start making decisions, they are going to have us in the back of their mind and, I hope, think about if it’s going to impact us in a negative way.”
Learning the History of the People of the Inlet
Michelle George gave the audience a brief history of the Tsleil-Waututh people, whose name translates to ‘People of the Inlet’.
“During the 1800s there were a lot of things like laws, plague that started to take away from my people.”
George explained how the Tsleil-Waututh have called the Burrard Inlet home since time immemorial, but the devastating impacts following first contact with European explorers nearly wiped them out, with the population being reduced to approximately 15 families by the end of the 19th century.
A key part of the event was the informal round table discussions. During this part of the forum attendees shared stories of the most influential people in their lives, offering insights into the experiences and values which shaped their personalities.
Personal Stories Cultivate Political Dialogue
Ernie George, Director, Treaty, Lands and Resources for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, sees the forum as a venue for personal bonds to be strengthened by face-to-face interaction.
“Today I met Councillor Jim Hanson from the District of North Vancouver for the first time and he sits at our treaty table.” (Hanson is a new member of the District’s council, having won his seat in the last municipal election in November 2014).
“I think it’s critically important that we connect as people,” says Jim Hanson. “Our nations have to find areas of agreement, areas of communication, areas of relationship.”
Metro Vancouver Director Barbara Steele, Chair of the Aboriginal Relations Committee, was also in attendance.
“I grew up on the North Shore, so for me it was really interesting and I think people were very open to talking about the history.
You know we read about the history, we see it in the paper and people talk about on the news, but when you just hear it from people sitting and having a conversation, it’s really real and you understand. It was an eye-opener and fascinating to hear.”
“Even in this day and age we are still knitting our culture in with today,” notes Ernie George. “And you can never ever read about it and have the same understanding as what you witnessed today.”
The forum concluded with a performance by the Tsleil-Waututh traditional dance group Children of Takaya.
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