This week's #TeachingsTuesday is inspired by words shared by our friend Len Pierre when he stated, "we can't talk about reconciliation without talking about L-A-N-D." This statement got me thinking about a conversation I'd shared with Jennifer Jones of Lyackson First Nation. Valdes Island is the ancestral territory of the Lyackson Mustimuhw (People), and they currently manage three land reserves which comprise a third of Valdes Island, where they continue to engage in traditional land-use practices on a seasonal basis. However, Jennifer shared with me that Valdes was historically the summer place of the Lyackson People, and that pre-colonization, their homelands were actually at the mouth of the Cowichan River. Jennifer shares:
"In current day, our Nations are divided up into singular groups: Lyackson, Halalt, Stz'uminus, Cowichan, Penelakut, and Ts'uubaa-asatx Nation (formerly known as Lake Cowichan First Nation). However, historically we were Nuutsumaat (we are one) as the Cowichan Nation. Our Lyackson People were known as the warriors of the territory, and our settlement was at the mouth of the Cowichan River. We were the defenders of the inlet, our men the biggest, strongest, and fiercest warriors, protecting our communities upstream. During the smallpox pandemic, we packed up our people and moved to our summer place on Valdes to insulate ourselves from the devastation that was happening in the valley. When we returned, our homeland had been stolen by the hwunitum (White person). Today, our traditional territory on Valdes is beautiful, but difficult to access. We hope to create a way to increase accessibility for our People. Everyone deserves access to their sacred places."
Over the past 9 years, my understanding of what has taken place across this place that I call my home creates deep discomfort in my heart. This week within our Culturally Committed community, we have been sharing thoughts and perspectives around the use of the word 'unceded'. Collins Dictionary defines the word as, "not ceded or handed over; unyielded." It is important to recognize that there are no treaties in place for the people of the Cowichan Nations; they have never surrendered their rights to these territories.