Minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, Mary Polak, and Tom Ethier, chief negotiator for the province, visited Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation on Friday, July 8 to tour the community and make two funding announcements.
During the visit Polak and Tla’Amin Chief Clint Williams signed a new three-year forestry agreement, the Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement, which will support Tla’Amin with about $450,000 per year. Williams said this money goes toward “nice to do” initiatives, such as covering registration fees for youth sports and travel costs for around 30 elders who this week are attending an elders’ gathering in Abbotsford.
“An agreement isn’t an ending, an agreement is the beginning of acting in a new way in the relationship,” said Polak. “That’s exactly how we will all be considering the work that we undertake today...this is exciting, it is happy. It is encouraging.”
Also during the visit, Polak and Ethier toured Sliammon Salmon Hatchery, Tla’Amin Community Health Services and had lunch featuring salmon and bannock on the menu at the community gym. City of Powell River Mayor Stewart Alsgard, Councillor Chris McNaughton, Powell River Regional District board chair Colin Palmer, Tla’Amin representatives and others were on hand for the tour.
During the visit Polak presented Williams and the community with a framed version of the acknowledgment of the new forestry agreement. Williams and the Tla’Amin community returned the gesture by presenting Polak with a locally weaved fedora hat. Relations between the province and Tla’Amin appear strong for the moment even as the band confronts federal government over treaty process delays.
In addition to the forestry agreement, Polak also announced the presentation of $100,000 to Tla’Amin for restoration work on Theodosia River. Described as a “pre-treaty commitment,” the money will go toward restoring river flows and revitalizing fish habitat damaged by destructive logging practices and a landslide in the 1990s.
Theodosia (Toh kwon_non) Stewardship Roundtable chair Erik Blaney said that while he is appreciative of the funding he wishes it had come earlier, as they missed the cut off for starting the project this year by only about three weeks. Now work to increase wintering habitat for resident coho and spawning ground for chum will not be able to start until August 2012. Blaney said that about $50,000 in additional funding is needed to have enough to complete the project and a water license application process is ongoing.
“It came way too late,” said Blaney. “It’s a great project and we really wanted to have it done this year.”
In a closed meeting, Polak spoke with the community dignitaries and representatives about concerns over the treaty and opportunities for a bilateral approach between the province and Tla’Amin toward federal government. Tla’Amin chief negotiator Roy Francis said they discussed in general how the province and Tla’Amin can work together toward positive goals.
“I think it’s important for the community to be seeing successes. Today was one of those successes,” said Francis. “We have taken another couple of steps closer to our goal and that goal is to be self-governing, to be self-sustaining. It’s to be in a position where we look after our own and we do that in a spirit of cooperation.”