The Simpcw and Gitsegukla First Nations came together in Prince George at Lheidli T’enneh’s House of Ancestors to sign an historic agreement Wednesday.
They participated in drumming and songs before signing a declaration that signifies a commitment to recognize each nation’s inherent jurisdiction for their children and families.
In keeping with traditional practice, Gitsegukla traded sockeye salmon for Simpcw’s Tcwesétmentem (“Walking Together”) Agreement which is the only legally binding child welfare agreement of its kind in British Columbia.
Gitsegukla Chief Annie Howard said this agreement builds upon the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday wa decision, which was signed by Gitxsan hereditary chiefs in the Supreme Court of Canada affirming aboriginal title.
“We honour them through the exercise of our traditional trade and enter this declaration to self-determine how we will work with other Nations based on our Ayook (laws) for the well-being and best interests of our children and families,” said Howard.
Simpcw and Gitsegukla have children with ancestral ties to both Nations and members who reside in another nation’s territory.
“Our elders instructed us to go work with other Nations and develop an agreement that sets out our own self-determined path forward, which today we have achieved,” said Kukpi7 George Lampreau, Simpcw.
“Now signing this agreement is us working toward how we work together if there's any conflicts between the nations or between the families when it comes to dealing with our children – That’s what it’s all about, looking out for future generations that are to come.”
Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan welcomed both nations during the ceremony.
“We’re stronger together than we are individuals in bringing back our culture, our language,” said Logan, adding that Lheidli T’enneh was interested in signing onto the agreement in the future.
“Our children are our future and I want to thank the chiefs for showing us the way forward.”