Chief Kim Baird
Pic: Sandor Gyarmati, Delta Optimist
Sandar Gyarmati The Delta Optimist November 4, 2010
Sawwassen First Nation opens third session of legislature
Delta South could have a new name that recognizes the emergence of a native self-government in the riding.
During the opening of the Tsawwassen First Nation's third session of its legislative assembly Tuesday, the proposal came forward from Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, one of several dignitaries who spoke at the event at the Tsawwassen Longhouse.
Huntington suggested it's now appropriate to expand the name of the riding she represents to recognize a self-governing, and soon growing, community is situated within its boundaries.
"Having taken just that small part in your struggle to become self-governing was such an honour and I learned so much from all of you. I learned about commitment to an objective and I learned about how a calm, dignified, respectful pursuit of a goal can bring distinction to an entire community," said Huntington.
The riding's new name would likely be TFN-Delta South.
Huntington's suggestion was endorsed by Chief Kim Baird, whose motion to request the name change to the province's chief electoral officer was approved by her legislators.
The potential name change capped off an evening of ceremony and recognition of a future filled with tremendous opportunity for the native band.
The TFN treaty came into effect on April 3, 2009. It's the first urban treaty in B.C. history and the first modern treaty negotiated under the B.C. Treaty Commission process.
As a new government in Canada, the TFN is breaking ground in developing legislation and regulations.
Before the 13 members, including Baird, got down to business, a ceremonial entrance and prayer marked the opening.
The lengthy list of guest speakers also included Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, Lieutenant Governor Steven Point, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Barry Penner, B.C. Treaty Commission Chief Sophie Pierre and MLA Linda Reid. Each speaker held a traditional talking feather as they addressed the legislators.
Baird provided some opening comments on work already taking place behind the scenes, the opportunities ahead as well as challenges still facing the TFN.
"Having a treaty has allowed us to get beyond mistreatment, to reconcile our relationship with the broader society and be able to hope for a different future for our members ... I do believe that no matter how we decide to measure our progress, it will be progress, progress in our community we haven't seen at a rate in living memory," she said.
Baird, who represents the band on the Metro Vancouver board, said self-government is a shining example of what can be achieved through reconciliation and negotiation, a theme echoed by guest speakers who wished the band government luck as it moved forward.
Point, B.C.'s 28th lieutenant governor and a former chief of the Skowkale First Nation and tribal chair of the Stó:lo Nation Government, gave a poignant speech.
Also a former chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission, Point told TFN legislative members self-government is the path to self-dignity for native people, which will once and for all remove the shackles of the Indian Act.
"It will not be an easy journey. Mistakes will be made. There will be those who question your ability and even your motives. Know that because no one is perfect, mistakes will be made, but never take up the banner of self-doubt, fear and despair," said Point.
"Take strength in knowing that we are with you. We believe in your journey, for it is truly our journey as well."
Jackson said she's looking forward to forging a new relationship between Delta and the TFN as equal entities and neighbours. She noted both sides are working on important infrastructure servicing agreements.
The mayor also invited TFN representatives to welcome a delegation from Mangalore, India, where Jackson and Delta officials recently visited to formalize a twin city relationship.
The TFN legislature's only other order of business was to pass first reading on amendments to the band's land act. The amendments are meant to clarify policy objectives and land title holder rights as long-term leasing and development is on the horizon.