Tla’amin Nation and Catalyst, a Paper Excellence company, have announced a name change for the Powell River mill.
According to a media release from Tla’amin Nation and Catalyst, the intent is to build a memorandum of understanding that sets out the intentions of all parties to build a new and collaborative relationship. The release stated that among other important initiatives, a first step will be to change the name and signage of the Catalyst Powell River mill to use the Tla’amin historical designation of the area: Tis’kwat (pronounced Tees’kwat), which means big river. The mill was built on a significant Tla’amin village site, displacing and relocating the population in the early 1900s.
“This name change is a longtime coming and an important gesture to repairing harm,” stated Tla’amin Nation hegus John Hackett. “Our ancestors will rejoice to hear this place once again being called Tis’kwat, and Tla’amin looks forward to the hard and productive conversations to come as we build a new relationship with Catalyst.”
Graham Kissack, Paper Excellence vice president environment, health and safety and corporate communications, stated the company is working closely with Hackett and the Tla’amin executive council to ensure steps being taken in building this new relationship are thoughtful and measured.
“We believe that reconciliation through collaboration and an open-minded approach creates enduring and meaningful connections,” stated Kissack.
The release stated that Paper Excellence’s approach is to build long-term high value partnerships with communities in its operating areas and to align its vision, values and corporate policies with local Indigenous peoples.
In an interview with the Peak, Kissack said Tis’kwat will be integrated into the mill’s name, but Paper Excellence is still working through the details.
“I presume it’s going to be something like Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat, but those are discussions we need to have internally and with Tla’amin,” said Kissack.
He said across the board, Paper Excellence is having extensive fundamental discussions with dozens of first nations across Canada the company works with, either as neighbours, or partners, or both.
“It’s really an opportunity to explore what we can do better in terms of working together to make our communities more robust and successful,” said Kissack. “It will help position Paper Excellence more strategically into the future.”
Company endeavours to catch up
Kissack said the company recognizes it has been slow to come to the table but he would offer up that it is moving very quickly now.
“We are quite confident we will be catching up to and passing many others in terms of these efforts into the future,” said Kissack.
Kissack said in the past couple of years, and especially the past six months, with all of the discoveries and unfurling tragedies regarding residential schools, it’s an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the past and create a different future. He said multiple memorandums of understanding have been entered into with first nations and there have been new fibre supply agreements and other business relationships established.
“This is really our path forward,” said Kissack. “We think it’s critically important from a cultural and corporate social responsibility perspective, and also from a corporate strategic perspective, in terms of continued access to resources in our landscape.”
Catalyst Powell River mill general manager Krista Cuddy said the initiative to build a collaborative relationship with Tla’amin is important.
“We’re definitely committed to learning and working with the nation,” said Cuddy. “All of the executives, to the general managers of each of our facilities, have committed to this reconciliation process within their own communities. We have examples of communities with longstanding positive working relationships with their local first nations groups or Indigenous groups. It’s something that has been a gap here at this facility for the last few years and definitely something we need to work on.”
Cuddy said she thinks preliminary discussions with Tla’amin have gone well and over the coming months the company will be “rolling up its sleeves” and looking for mutually beneficial opportunities.
“It’s the start of a good relationship moving forward,” said Cuddy.
For more historical context on the name Tis’kwat, visit the traditional place names project at powellriver.ca/pages/photo-history-of-powell-river.