Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) board and staff recently had a chance to become better informed about the history of Aboriginal Peoples and their current issues.
Four Aboriginal women from different parts of the regional district – including Corinne George, regional principal of the Lakes District campus of the College of New Caledonia (CNC) – delivered a five-hour presentation to the board and staff on Aug. 17, 2017.
George said the RDBN board and staff were “very receptive.”
“We, as presenters, were extremely pleased with the afternoon and the outcome of the presentation,” she said. “We covered a great deal of material in that time and engaged in meaningful discussion.”
Main topics included treaties and Aboriginal rights, Aboriginal-Crown relations and the history and legacy of residential schools.
“The items outlined in the presentation provide a glimpse into the histories of Aboriginal Peoples not only in Canada but within our region,” said George. “We presented a broad overview of these topics and then spoke about our regional history and culture, focusing primarily on the Witsuwit’en [Wet’suwet’en] and Nakazdli.”
Earlier this summer, a proposed relationship protocol between the RDBN and First Nations sparked a debate during a board meeting. The proposed protocol, intended to strengthen relations between First Nations and local governments, acknowledged that the RDBN is on unceded First Nations territory.
Some directors weren’t entirely sure of what “unceded territory” meant or if they could believe it.
“How do I know what took place 200 years ago?” asked Jerry Peterson, Director of Electoral Area F (Vanderhoof Rural). “I don’t know, so to make that statement saying that I acknowledge it, I don’t acknowledge it because I don’t know.”
During that same board meeting, Mark Fisher, Director of Electoral Area A (Smithers rural), encouraged directors who were unsure about the history of First Nations in B.C. or relevant Supreme Court of Canada decisions to “find a dictionary.”
The recent presentation was requested by the RDBN based on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report, which called federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal Peoples.
George said that understanding the history of Aboriginal Peoples is important not only for public servants, but for all Canadians.
“We interact with each other on a regular basis, so having background knowledge of each other’s history and culture is vital in order to advance positive relationships,” she said.
Presenters also included Marlene Erickson, CNC’s director of Aboriginal education; Nicholette Prince, regional principal for CNC Nechako; and Birdy Markert, School District 54’s principal of Aboriginal education.