The distance between the District of Sicamous and Splatsin governments became a lot shorter last week.
On Friday, Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton and Couns. Suzanne Carpenter, Charlotte Hutchinson and Fred Busch gathered at the Splatsin arbour in Enderby to sign a protocol agreement with Chief Wayne Christian and Couns. Jean Brown, Daniel Joe, Reno Lee and George William. The signing was part of the band’s early Aboriginal Day celebrations, and was marked with speeches, song and dancing.
“It’s a very important event because it really does formalize the relationship that we’re working on developing with them,” band administrator Loretta Eustache commented while welcoming both governments to the table. “It’s significant for both parties – to work together and look at opportunities to support each other. And everybody knows from Splatsin, Sicamous is a very important area to our community historically, and continues to be today.”
Before getting down to business, Christian and Trouton shared some words with the crowd gathered for the occasion. Christian noted how the Splatsin once had a community in Sicamous that was displaced by the federal government, and that the signing represents a return.
“We’re going to be working with the townspeople there to rebuild that area, because it’s an area that’s important to our people,” said Christian. “It’s very significant in many ways because it was a gateway for our people into the Rocky Mountains. Our people travelled up and down the Eagle Valley and fished and hunted all the way into Revelstoke… until they closed the Columbia River off. Sicamous is a really important area and, in our spiritual world, it’s one of our sacred areas… It’s very significant to the Secwepemc Nation as a whole.”
Trouton emphasized the importance of understanding and recognizing Sicamous’ heritage, and working together with the band in a more formal way.
The agreement establishes effective communication between the two governments, with shared objectives including the collaborative pursuit of economic development opportunities; long-term servicing strategies for water; sewer and fire protection; a policy concerning the protection of cultural and archeological resources; and “developing shared principles in areas of mutual concern respecting environmental stewardship and sustainable communities.”
The agreement would not replace legal consultation requirements, nor does it extinguish, abrogate or diminish aboriginal rights or title.
After the signing, Trouton explained that the agreement represents a formal approach to moving forward with the Splatsin, both culturally and economically.
“We’re all in this together and we’re trying to do the best we can with what we have, and whenever we can make things easier, and more efficient and effective, then that’s what we need to do. And you go a lot further working together than working against each other or apart,” said Trouton. “We always respect that we do want to consult back and forth. But it’s more of an open discussion now of what’s happening, and where we might fit in with what the band is doing… and opportunities for learning from each other. It’s crazy that we’re so close and we don’t do that.
“And there is lots of land within the community that is the Spatsin’s. They need to utilize those lands and we need to assist them with that. How can our infrastructure work with them and benefit what they need to do, which in return benefits us.”
Christian said the agreement is about having a formal process through which to share information.
“We could do it many different ways, but we do it to make sure everything is above board and on the table,” said Christian, adding similar protocol agreements are already in place with the City of Enderby and the Village of Lumby. “The bottom line, the essence, is that we have to work together. When we look at the economy, if we can’t work together and help each other out, the communities won’t benefit as a whole. It really is about that.
“Sicamous, as you know, is really a summer place, it’s not a four-season place. I think we’re looking at that and what we can do to work together with the district council there to make something happen in that part of the world.”