The Canim Lake (Tsq’escen’) and Simpcw First Nation bands signed an agreement together to renew their relationship on Thursday, Aug. 22.
The agreement, called Re Spèts’en-kt, or ‘Our Bond’, is a renewal of a previous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed between the Tsq’escen’ and Simpcw bands in June, 2013. The agreement was updated to reflect the current legal and political landscape around Indigenous empowerment and resurgence.
Re Spèts’en-kt – Our Bond recognizes the familial, historic, and enduring bond between the two Secwepemc communities, who have stewarded and occupied their respective territories for thousands of years.
“There have always been strong family ties between the Simpcwemc and the Tsq’escenemc,” said Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring.
“We look forward to strengthening our relationship and better coordinating our resources to meet modern demands. This includes coordinating resources for major resource projects through our shared territory. Divide and conquer is no longer an option.”
Each community represents a historic division within the larger Secwepemc Nation. Tsq’escen’ is the Styetemc or Lake Division and Simpcw is the North Thompson Division. Each division has autonomous stewardship responsibilities for their own part of the territory within the larger Secwepemc Nation, and each community occupies exclusive territory, sharing a large portion of their territory with each other.
In a statement jointly released by the two band’s chiefs, Kukpi7 Helen Henderson of Tsq’escen’ and Kukpi7 Shelly Loring of Simpcw, some of the changes that have taken place since the MOU was signed in 2013 were outlined.
“This includes the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision which awarded Aboriginal title for the first time. The governments of Canada and British Columbia have also affirmed their commitment to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which, among others, affirms Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent in major decisions affecting their lands and people.”
Historically, the Secwepemc held annual gatherings at Green Lake, the release noted.
“Tsq’escen’ is proud to once again host our Secwepemc relatives here,” said Henderson. “Together we reaffirm our commitment to strengthen our bonds, protect our rights and title, and lift up our Secwepemc nation.”
“As we embark on this journey together, we hope our neighbours join us in acts of reconciliation no matter how big or small. But we have to start,” agreed both chiefs.