Representatives from both Shuswap and Secwepemc governments gather together at the Adams Lake Conference and Recreation Centre Sept. 28 to sign a communications agreement ensuring transparent communications between governments. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Secwepemc and Shuswap governments sign milestone agreement

Agreement focuses on trust, mutual respect and recognition of legitimacy between communities

A milestone on the road to strengthening relations between the Secwepemc First Nations and Okanagan-Shuswap governments was passed during the signing of a communications agreement Sept. 28.

Representatives of local governments and First Nations communities gathered at the Adams Lake Recreation and Conference Centre to formalize an agreement that has been in the works since 2016. The Shuswap Local and Secwepemc Governments Communications Agreement is meant to “establish and maintain a long-term, cooperative government-to-government relationship and open communication across the Shuswap watershed,” as the document reads.

The agreement was signed by all representatives present, with students from the Chief Atahm School acting as witnesses, as is Secwepemc tradition.

“This is how we take this from the young to the old,” Adams Lake Band Chief Cliff Arnouse said of the importance of youth acting as witnesses. “If we can’t look after our people, we can’t look after our land, we can’t look after our title and rights, we can’t do all these things.”

The communications agreement was established to put in writing a sense of trust, mutual respect and recognition of legitimacy between First Nations and other local governments. It mandates openness, transparency and “no surprises” in communication between these governments going forward.

Related:B.C. woman behind Orange Shirt Day pens new book for teachers

The agreement encourages all parties to come together both formally and informally to speak on issues of importance to both Secwepemc First Nations and local communities. This includes a yearly formal gathering of elected officials from communities that signed the agreement.

As each signatory took their turn to step up and sign the communications agreement, they underwent a smudging ceremony, a First Nations tradition that is meant to cleanse negative thoughts. They were then offered a chance to speak a few words about what this agreement means to them.

Columbia-Shuswap Regional District chair Rhona Martin said, “I’m sad and I’m joyful; I’m sad because it has taken us so long on this journey to get where we are today.”

Chief Wayne Christian of the Splatsin First Nation said, “I think Kukpi7 Arnouse said it really well. This agreement represents a time of change. I think this is what this is about, we are in that time of change whether we know it or not. We are being forced to work together because our lands and waters and everything around us is being threatened by many things.”

Echoing Chief Arnouse’s statement about caring for the land, Christian continued, “I think it is important we begin to think about that collectively. We need your help and you need our help to do that. That is to me what this signals, is the importance of that communication with each other.”

Related: Safe route needed between First Nations, Salmon Arm communities

Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper reflected on the memory of a much-loved Neskonlith elder who she hopes would be honoured to see this agreement come to fruition.

“This started for me many years ago when Dr. Mary Thomas spoke with the college when I was teaching there,” Cooper began. “She talked about us needing to work together if we were going to make things go forward, we needed to all work together. So I want to honour Mary Thomas at this time as well. It is very important and very honouring to me to stand here and sign this agreement.”

Neskonlith elder Louis Thomas spoke to how this agreement will help pave the way for a better future.

“We have all our communities here together, we have to work together to help make this place a better place for our children, everyone’s children for the future,” he said. “I think that is all our responsibility, not only the Secwepemc people but with all of us combined together. We have to make this a better place because we are losing everything; our fish are disappearing, our plants are disappearing, our animals are disappearing. We need all that help to create a better place for our future.”

Elder Ronnie Jules seemed optimistic that this agreement poses solutions rather than creates arguments.

“It is very important as I have said to bridge these gaps time and time again. I sat on council here for 34 years and I remember the days there was a lot of arguments about that which don’t help build these bridges,” he said.


 

@Jodi_Brak117
jodi.brak@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper and Councillor Alan Harrison sign the communications agreement during the Sept. 28 ceremony. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Representatives and witnesses gather together for a group photo during the Sept. 28 signing ceremony. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Chief Wayne Christian of the Splatsin First Nation signs the communications agreement during the Sept. 28 ceremony. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Councillor Ronnie Jules of the Adams Lake Indian Band signs the communications agreement as Councillor Gina Johnny acts as witness. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Joan Arnouse takes CSRD Chair Rhona Martin through the smudging process, a traditional First Nations practice meant to cleanse negative thoughts. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Joan Arnouse takes Shuswap MP Mel Arnold through the smudging process, a traditional First Nations practice meant to cleanse negative thoughts. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Joan Arnouse notarizes the communications agreement between Secwepemc and Shuswap governments after all signatures are present as Councillor Gina Johnny acts as witness. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Kelowna’s first pot shop opening soon

Two recreational cannabis stores to serve Kelowna-area soon

Kelowna Aquajets swim to 11th place finish in U.S. competition

The Kelowna earned 10 medals in the 23 team competition

Kelowna house fire deemed not suspicious

Fire crews doused overnight blaze at Barnaby Road home

Pot shop to open doors Saturday in Lake Country

Starbuds will be one of B.C.’s largest private cannabis stores

A pickleball debacle unfolds in Lake Country

Pickleball players and frustrated residents discuss the sport court

3 dead, 2 missing in northern B.C: Here’s what we know so far

Lucas Fowler, 23, and his girlfriend, Chynna Deese, were shot and killed on July 14 or 15

Horgan hints at Daylight Saving Time changes after record survey response

More than 223,000 online surveys were submitted in the government’s public consultation

UPDATE: Lightning causes three wildfires east of Osoyoos

It is believed the fires started by a lightning storm

Two lightning caused fires in North Okanagan

The fires sparked Monday evening

Jurors talk about trial of U.S. man convicted in 1987 murders of B.C. couple

Three jurors offer a window into deliberations during the trial

Tubing world record broken on Vancouver Island

But record for length of tubes linked together still has to be confirmed

UPDATE: Culprit leaves clue for Okanagan RCMP in rainbow crosswalk vandalism

Crosswalk was defaced on the weekend, but RCMP may have some evidence

The Beaverton’s sharp satire thrives in polarized political climate

Canadian TV series’ third season to air Tuesday on CTV after “The Amazing Race Canada”

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Most Read