Home > Featured > tiskwat Memorandum of Understanding sets out Cooperation and Collaboration with the Province of B.C. to Safeguard Future of Mill Site. 

tiskwat Memorandum of Understanding sets out Cooperation and Collaboration with the Province of B.C. to Safeguard Future of Mill Site. 

By Davis McKenzie

Premier David Eby, Elder Elsie Paul, hegus John Hackett and Minister Murray Rankin look on as Executive Councillor Erik Blaney applies tumuth to Eliana Kamaretsos held by mom Nikole Pielle. Eliana and Yianoula Kamaretsos (on the left held by dad Konstantinos Kamaretsos) make their mark in history as part of the MOU signing with dignitaries.  

October 31, 2023

Tla’amin teachings speak to the power of twins.

Twins carry special gifts, are known to communicate without words, and often have the ability to foresee the future.

Identical twins Eliana and Yianoula Kamaretsos (Pielle) are only two months old but already have left their mark on Tla’amin history.

Their feet and hands painted with Tumuth, the twins witnessed the signing of a historic agreement with the Province of BC aimed to care for and reclaim the Tla’amin village site seven generations after it was taken from their ancestors.

Eliana and Yianoula were among 300 people gathered at tiskwat on October 27th to celebrate the signing of new Memorandum of Understanding with Premier David Eby which sets out environmental protection, economic opportunity, and a path to Tla’amin ownership of tiskwat.

The event began in a chilly predawn light when Johnny Louie and Drew Blaney lit a sacred fire to feed the ancestors who called Tla’amin’s original village of tiskwat home. Noreen Paul prepared the meal of traditional food that would be recognizable to the ancestors and handed out cedar to the small group assembled.

“The fire opens the portal to the other side,” said Blaney. He explains that we light the fire to invite the ancestors to be with us and watch the work. “They have been waiting a very long time for this day.”

MLA Nicolas Simons was the emcee for the signing ceremony and Carmen Galligos and Noreen Paul covered him in a speaker blanket to protect him and help him carry out the work of the day. 

Drew Blaney led over 100 members of Tla’amin drum family in the honour song to welcome hegus John Hackett, Premier David Eby, Minister Murray Rankin and Tla’amin Legislators Losa Luaifoa, Brandon Peters, Erik Blaney, Gloria Francis, Lori Wilson, Larry Louie, Leonard Harry, and Dillon Johnson to the site.

Alisha Point recites a poem titled tiskwat to the over 300 guests assembled on Tla’amin’s former village site. Elder Elsie Paul offered the opening prayer and MLA Nicholas Simons emceed the day.  

Elsie Paul, the eldest member of Tla’amin Nation offered the opening prayer. Her voice breaking with emotion, she spoke first in Ayajuthem and later summarized in English. “I’ve offered prayer to the ancestors that they are here today with us, that they are happy that we are gathered here, on this precious piece of land where our ancestors once lived. We remember them today and we ask them to guide the work that is going on in a good way.” 

Ayajuthem teacher Alisha Point then shared a poem titled “tiskwat ” written by local poet Joshua Degroot and based on Tla’amin oral testimony and traditional use studies. The 40-line poem was addressed to the big and fast river and recited in the only language that Tla’amin ancestors understood. 

A translation of the poem by Gail Blaney and Elsie Paul was circulated so that those in attendance could follow along in Ayajuthem or english. 

Following the poem Premier David Eby shared his commitment in bringing the strength of the entire BC government to enable collaboration on to tiskwat . He then spoke of the history of wrongs at tiskwat – wrongs that BC is working to right. 

“The tiskwat village site is clearly so central to the Tla’amin people,” said Eby, “And the injustice that was done when the village site was taken, when the river was damned, and when the salmon disappeared, and when others took the economic benefit from that leaving Tla’amin out, and for generations to try to grapple with that loss was profoundly wrong. And our goal here today, as the provincial government, is to pledge to work in partnership with Tla’amin First Nation to address that wrong.”

Four things to know about yiχmɛtštəm (yeekh-met-shtum) tiskʷat (we are going to take care of tiskwat) MOU

  1. It has a two-year term and implicates eight ministries across the BC government.
  2. The MOU includes provisions to safeguard the future of tiskwat through strong environmental stewardship and remediation of the former mill site 
  3. It aims to increase Tla’amin economic benefit from the site after being shut out for the last 150 years, and,
  4. The MOU recognizes Tla’amin’s long term goal of site ownership.

In his remarks, Hegus John Hackett reminded the ceremony attendees that Tla’amin Nation has never given up on tiskwat and that the only thing that has changed is the willingness of our treaty partners to hear and understand us.

“For seven generations our story, our history, our connection to this place hasn’t changed.  What has changed is the listener. We have willing partners walking beside us now. And for that I am grateful.”

Following speeches by dignitaries, the MOU was signed by hegus Hackett and Premier Eby and witnessed by the youngest and eldest members of Tla’amin to symbolize the destructive legacy and the generational opportunity these two governments recognize at tiskwat. 

Leadership pauses for a photo after signing the MOU. Left to right: Tla’amin Executive Councillor Dillon Johnson, Tla’amin Executive Councillor Lori Wilson, hegus John Hackett, Premier David Eby, MLA Nicholas Simons, Tla’amin Executive Councillor Losa Luaifoa, Tla’amin Executive Councillor Erik Blaney and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin.

Drew Blaney and the drum family closed the event by leading Tla’amin kids in a newly composed Tla’amin honour song. 

With the twins and the ancestors looking on, the Nation celebrated.

As the kids danced, the sounds of their feet on the earth mingling with the beat of the drum, the smoke of the sacred fire drifted in the air and for the first time in seven generations a sense of hope that tiskwat was within reach.  

Tla’amin Chi Chuys share an honour song to cap off the event.

Missed the event?

Check out the YOUTUBE livestream here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwo0GS_l9kU

Read the news release here: https://www.tlaaminnation.com/strongtlaamin-nation-and-b-c-commit-to-working-together-to-safeguard-future-of-strongtisksupw-supatstrong-site-strong/