The mood was optimistic as a new Tsawwassen First Nation legislature opened Wednesday evening.
Held at the Tsawwassen Longhouse, it was the first session of the TFN's second legislature following its historic urban treaty and the first with new Chief Bryce Williams.
Williams, who defeated longtime incumbent Kim Baird in September's election, is in his second term in the legislature at only 23 years of age.
The opening session was primarily spent on introductions and ceremony as well as voting for a new squiquel, otherwise known as the legislative chair.
Ken Baird was named squiquel and, as part of an effort to introduce more traditions and customs into the government, he received his own "talking feather." It means he does not have to wait for the legislature's feather that's passed around among members to be handed to him in order to speak.
Both Baird and a young feather runner also received special ceremonial sashes, new for the TFN proceedings as well.
Members of the new legislature all took the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their hopes for the three-year term, several noting they were looking forward to the challenge. Several also mentioned the importance of maintaining their heritage.
Returning legislator Tony Jacobs, who was the squiquel in the last legislature, stressed that culture should always come first as the First Nation embarks on a major transformation of its landscape.
"It's important to maintain the strength of our culture and share it and allow it to be shared. Especially for the youth, the idea of the feather runner in the last legislature was an awesome idea to get our youth involved," Jacobs said.
"I find it really awesome to begin our legislative session in the longhouse, to listen to the drum and listen to the song. I welcome the songs and drums from our people and prayers from our elders and I think it's really important to maintain that structure. The structure is carried through generations through our elders, and it's important we maintain and strengthen that."
Jacobs also noted it's important to make the TFN government more welcoming to its members, especially youth.
Change is certainly beginning to take shape at the TFN with the recent announcement of site preparation work getting underway for a pair of mega malls, which are poised to dominate the South Delta landscape in a coupe of years.
Major housing developments that will add thousands of new residents are also planned and the First Nation is working with Port Metro Vancouver on ideas to develop the industrial land.
Meantime, the TFN has been working with Aquilini Renewable Energy on a proposal to build a waste-to-energy regional garbage incinerator. The TFN has also started working on a separate plan for its agriculturally designated land.
According to the B.C. Treaty Commission, the Tsawwassen treaty will enable the First Nation to "become a big player in the regional economy."
Both guest speakers at Wednesday's opening session, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington and SFU public policy professor Doug McArthur, echoed that sentiment.
As the TFN plans for major growth on multiple fronts, however, the contentious issue of not having the sewer capacity to accommodate that growth remains unresolved. The TFN's website notes it's been unable to reach a water and sewage servicing agreement with Delta council, even though drainage water, which contains agricultural run-off and other pollutants, from Delta empties into the foreshore in the middle of the First Nation's reserve.
The issue was only mentioned occasionally Wednesday and there was no indication of a souring relationship with Delta.