(Kate Marsh was invited by Valerie Bob to speak on Truth and Reconciliation as it relates to climate action during the National Indigenous Peoples Day ceremony in Chemainus. Marsh is a member of the First Nations Relations Committee and chairs the Environmental Advisory Committee which also deals with climate change but was not formally representing the municipality at this event).
For thousands of years, Quw’utsun Nations walked gently on their territories – still largely unceded by treaty or any other means. Many gathered on the traditional territory of the Penelakut Nation on Indigenous Peoples Day on land that is currently called Waterwheel Park.
Through the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we may find the beginnings of a path forward, a good path – a path towards reconciliation made meaningful by action on climate and protecting biodiversity.
Like many others, our local government has an adopted climate action plan – a plan that can only succeed with commitments made and kept by Provincial and Federal Governments as well their own, and by decisions all of us make everyday. That is also true of reconciliation as true reconciliation requires building real relationships which requires commitment.
Fundamentally, to reach necessary targets on climate and reconciliation we must change the way we go about our lives, perform our jobs, build our infrastructure and design future communities. With reconciliation in mind, it’s important to acknowledge what we can learn from the First Peoples of this land. Among the many changes needed to truly move forward on reconciliation – acknowledging Indigenous rights and connection to land — is a vital one.
Climate impacts everything on earth. First People’s historical, cultural and spiritual connection to land is vital to their very identity. Reconciliation can only be fully realized when First People’s particular stake in the response to a changing climate is recognized and learned from. Collectively acknowledging the deleterious affects of non-Indigenous ways of life around the world (dubbed progress) has largely led to the human contribution to a changing climate while recognizing the disproportionate effects a warming planet has on Indigenous communities that historically depended on the land, its ecosystems and species – now at risk – and, sadly, increasingly disappearing, is critical. Earnestly doing so, together, we may be able to achieve both reconciliation and climate resilience.
First People’s inherent rights – under the Royal Proclamation of 1763 – to their traditional uses of land, their bond historically and spiritually, their connections to land – living on and from it, travelling via it, along with their dedication to protect the sacredness of it, (which has been their home since time immemorial) must be justly addressed in order to achieve true reconciliation and climate justice. The two are inseparable.
May we each make a commitment to learn about and honour First Peoples’ land based place and history. May we acknowledge and celebrate the millennia First Peoples have stewarded the land we call home here in Chemainus, and the abundant knowledge they have, along with the vital role they long played in protecting it.
Going forward together with Nutsamut (one mind), carrying out necessary actions individually and collectively, may we make our community more equitable, adaptable, affordable, efficient and regenerative.
May we take a humble posture of learning – so that together we can set about protecting the ecosystems upon which all life depends, here in the traditional territory of the Hul’qumi’num speaking peoples. Huy tsaap ca. Thank you.