Over the past several years, the Nation of Penelakut has been doing incredible work trail building across the Island. Whenever I can, I love to zip out on the trails on a lunch break -- to see how they are coming along, while taking in the beautiful nature that blankets this gorgeous gulf island. The challenge is, as the trails get longer and more developed, the more difficult it is to see them all in the limited time I have in the community. I am an avid mountain biker, and I recognized that I could cover far more ground in an exhilarating way if I was to bring my bike over on the ferry on a day I wasn’t working. However, I’ve come to know that just because I am an invited visitor when I attend the community to provide oral health services, this does not automatically entitle me to come over whenever I like.
I recently came across a question put forward on a community Facebook page wherein the poster was seeking guidance around a similar theme: how do Nations feel about non-First Nations accessing roadways on reserve? Is it okay for non-Indigenous people to access these lands? I was grateful when I saw Chief Roxanne Harris of Stz’uminus provide insight into access guidelines, and she gave me permission to share her words with you today.
“I want to respectfully say that our reserve is all that we have left of our traditional territory. The government relegated us to these small pieces of land, and as such, our reserve is private property. We have had issues with people dumping garbage on our reserve and treating our lands with great disrespect. We have signs posted in our community identifying our private lands, and humbly ask that if you wish to travel in or through our territory for any reason, you ask permission beforehand. We welcome “invited guests” regularly. We do this for the health and safety of all our Stz’uminus First Nations community members. Huy ch q’u (thank you) for your understanding.”
I am grateful to Chief Roxanne Harris for offering clear guidelines for those wishing to treat community members with respect, while respecting their rights to their private land. I applied this knowledge when I humbly asked permission for my partner and I to visit the island of Penelakut a few weekends ago with our mountain bikes in tow. The folks at the ferry terminal were incredulous when we announced that we were traveling to Penelakut. “Not Thetis? Do you have permission?!” When we arrived at the community, we dropped off a few gifts in thanks, and then spent the next several hours riding all over the island – it was an amazing day!
Kim at Culturally Committed