In April 2016, the Sliammon First Nation’s treaty with Canada and BC comes into full effect, and the Tla’amin Nation (as it will be officially known) will become selfgoverning. Perhaps the most significant effect of this momentous event is that the Tla’amin people will no longer be governed by the Indian Act, a colonial era law that imposed a system of control and restricted the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples. As an autonomous government, the Tla’amin Nation will have the power and right to forge its own path into the future.
Tla’amin will regain ownership of 8,322 hectares of land, including 70 km of waterfront located in Harwood, Southview, Lund, Okeover, Texada and the Tla’amin community. While this is, in reality, only a small fraction of the traditional lands, the Tla’amin Nation negotiators made the decision to opt for a defined land base that would give their community extraordinary opportunities to support its people from revenues derived from sustainably leveraging both lands and resources. The Tla’amin government plans to use these revenues to improve community infrastructure, enhance and increase services, fund housing and education, develop businesses and create needed jobs. The Tla’amin leadership has expressed confidence that the wealth generated from the assets gained through the treaty will, over time, improve the quality of life for each resident of the Tla’amin community.
The vision is lofty, and the road will not be easy. Over many long years, the Tla’amin people were subjected to conditions where their resources were exploited for the benefit of the non-Aboriginal community, while they suffered deprivation and the horrors of the residential schools. Prior to contact with Europeans, over 30,000 indigenous people lived in our region. Tla’amin controlled its own economy, resources and social structure. Since that time, and for over a hundred years, that dominion was taken away and capacity removed. This led to the result we see today, where there is little general commerce in the Tla’amin community and the Tla’amin people have been largely marginalized from the mainstream economic resources of the region.
Tla’amin residents need to go out of their community for most household necessities, including access to healthy foods. These circumstances have led to the persistence of conditions of poverty and are a root cause of why Tla’amin people do not enjoy the same health status as their non-Aboriginal peers.
Given historical lack of support in the broader area for the goals of the Tla’amin community, it is sensible that the Tla’amin Nation is plotting a course towards selfsufficiency.
But while distinct, the Tla’amin community is not unconnected to its neighbours, as all face many similar challenges. Much can be gained by working together to address overlapping and interrelated concerns.
Tla’amin, the City and the Regional District are meeting together regularly and forging agreements to address issues of common interest. Collaboration and mutual assistance will work to everyone’s advantage.