In my opinion, National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time for celebration for all Canadians, but especially for Indigenous communities and their citizens, including my community, Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN)
There are so many communities whether they are First Nation, Inuit or Metis that are Indigenous to their territories in this country.
There are about 200 First Nations in B.C. alone. This is such a wealth of culture, language and traditions that we should all treasure.
As former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation, I am proud of the revitalization of language and culture we are seeing in our community. This is in large part because of our modern treaty with self-governance that our people agreed to enter into with the governments of Canada and British Columbia over a decade ago. The treaty has enabled economic development which has allowed the government of Tsawwassen First Nation to invest in improving our quality of life. Before the treaty, our socioeconomic statistics were comparable to the deplorable and shameful conditions that First Nations across Canada have been facing since colonization. In addition, we have been investing into our language and culture revitalization.
This has been in our laws, regulations, policies and programs. We have tools to support our distinct art and this is becoming more visible every month.
Tsawwassen Mills is filled with art and design elements - all from TFN artists.
Our art and design elements are visible in many other places too, and you can see this footprint on the four corners of our lands and with many of the new buildings going up in our community. We have increased investment in language preservation and learning in our community. We are proud to see the recent number of young Tsawwassen members graduating from language training in partnership with SFU. New resources are making a difference in our cultural resurgence and revitalization.
And I say resurgence, because we sustained ourselves in this region for millennia.
Our language, Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, documents much of our culture and knowledge.
The oldest carbon date found at an archaeological site is 4,200 years old, but our elders say we have been at scəw̓aθən (Tsawwassen) since time immemorial. And our resilience and survival have been because of our culture as xwélmexw (First Nation people.) Our distinct language and culture are a great rallying point of celebration.
When I think of National Indigenous Day, I celebrate the diverse Indigenous cultures that are thriving across the country, and have been on this continent long before Europeans settled Canada. We can all celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day by being open to learn. Ideas for you to celebrate include, going to an event, reading a book, registering for a course, supporting an Indigenous business or any other activity you and your family choose to celebrate.
Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Kwuntiltunaat (Kim Baird)
Chancellor of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation