Huu-ay-aht First Nations held its first sitting of the 2019 Legislature on March 14, with the second and third sitting scheduled for this Friday, March 22.
Huu-ay-aht’s speaker Marjorie White opened the session welcoming everyone in attendance and expressing her pride in the Nation. She said it has been a good year and Huu-ay-aht could face some difficult decision in the coming year, but she expressed her confidence in the Nation’s leadership.
Council member Robert J. Dennis Sr. shared his opening remarks, beginning with a congratulations to Marg for her admission to the Order of Canada.
“She’s left a trail that many of us can blaze, especially when it comes to looking after people,” he said. “Our thoughts should always be ‘how can we help our people?’”
He expressed his pride in the leadership and staff for all their hard work and dedication. He also expressed his appreciation for the work of the committee members and the consultants who assist our Nation.
“We have all worked hard to get to where we are today,” he said. “We are closer than ever to achieving our goal – a safe, healthy, sustainable community – but we aren’t there yet.”
Robert spoke about the strong financial standing of the Nation and the many projects that the Nation has successfully completed or is making significant progress on this year.
He explained that Huu-ay-aht and the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses are doing a good job creating financial opportunity, which allows the Nation to provide services needed by the citizens. He said that by working together you create room for everyone to succeed, and that is what reconciliation is all about: working together in good faith for the betterment of all.
Council member Trevor Cootes spoke next on the economic opportunities he has witnessed through his economic development portfolio. He said the treaty is a tool to do business, as is HGB, and the Nation is doing a good job creating opportunities.
Trevor Cootes said that when he engages with other indigenous groups, he is proud to share the accomplishments of Huu-ay-aht.
“We hold on to our culture, and that shows how rich our roots are,” he said. “We are strong because we know our family, where we come from, and who we are.”
Trevor pointed out that in the past few years the Nation has grown, but its greatest challenge continues to be one of housing. The Nation has opportunity for growth, but it does not have the housing available to fully support that growth. That will come, he pointed out, and while the Nation works toward that it is important that we continue to offer trades and training that will prepare citizens for the workforce.
Trevor said these things can be accomplished given time, hard work, and strong relationships both in Bamfield and with all levels of government.
Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) said he grew up watching the leaders of the past accomplish great things. They did it through strong leadership and a trust in their traditional ways.
“We’ve progressed and come a very long way in a positive direction, but we can never forget who we are and where we come from,” he said. “We have to always remember our three principles and make sure we don’t forget our culture and history.”
He said it all started with the three Sacred Principles of ʔiisaak, ʔuuʔałuk, and Hišuk ma c̕awak. ƛiišin said his father believed that one day Anacla and Bamfield would be one big community by working together. Now we are moving in that direction, he pointed out, because we are a strong, self-governing nation. Even though there was an interruption when people tried to take Huu-ay-aht’s language and culture, it was protected and now gives us the strength to pursue our vision of a strong, healthy community.
“We are consistently growing in a healthy, positive way,” he said. “We are here today because of the influence of our leaders of the past. The genetic memory in us gives us courage to say it’s not right and makes us strong enough to fight until it is right.”
He said it is important to build a strong relationship with our neighbours, because we will be here forever.
“As long as there is a sun in the sky we will be here,” he said. “What comes in the shadows is what we must remember – the shadow is a reminder, and we won’t let this kind of action happen to us again.”
He said we must look back on the positive examples in order to move forward in a positive way. Our strength is in our people, he reminded the people sitting around the legislature table. “We are the voice of our people and that gives us strength, power, and pride.”
He said it is easier today to make a difference, “Before we had to fight to even get in the room. Now we have support and strong relationships,” he said, “We are in a positive place, and I am very proud of that.”
Council member Sheila Charles said the reason she is sitting at the legislature table is because one day her sister saw something in her that made her think she would be a good leader. She accepted the nomination to sit on council because she wanted to help people and work for her own government.
Looking back, she is proud that she kept fighting and talking about the hard subjects. Because of those conversations the Social Services Program is leading the way and one day the Nation will have no children in care.
“We must allow people to heal,” she said. “We need to support citizens from the effects of intergenerational trauma from colonization.”
She expressed her pride in what the social service panel and team has accomplished in a relatively short time. She said it is changing lives every day.
She said the Social Service Program is priority, but there have also been many other wins in the past year, like the opening of a playground picked out by the children in Anacla and helping citizens with their medical expenses when other agencies fall short. She looks forward to many more wins and success stories for her Nation, and said she won’t stop fighting for her people and hopes that resonates around the world.
Council member John Jack was on the phone from his Huu-ay-aht business trip to Calgary when he spoke on the success the Nation is having building relationships with all levels of government. He said he has had the privilege of seeing both pre-treaty and post-treaty eras.
“From where I stand, where I’ve had the privilege to be for almost 10 years now, is watching the Nation going from hoping and working at achieving and getting those things and the future we actually want, to actually grasping those things close to our heart and building on them,” he said. “It comes from an understanding of where we come from and the opportunity we have here, we have now developed a sense of hope that everyone is contributing to and hope motivates us all.”
He also stressed the importance of remembering the people who got us where we are, as well as why the Nation is working so hard – for the next generation. He said it is up to the government to provide for the current needs and make sure more is left for our children.
John said Huu-ay-aht has some of the most sophisticated leaders, and the Nation is “punching above our weight” when we go out to meet other leaders around the world. He credits that to being grounded as a Nation, with a strong understanding of the importance of language and culture. He said it is about balance and working together. He explained that the Nation is doing things right by ensuring people feel secure. He said citizens can celebrate their language and culture, seek out educations and training, and know that they can build a good life together as a family with opportunity in their homelands.
“Together we will create opportunity for our community and citizens so that they can accomplish what they want,” he said. “We are more part of the world outside than ever before, and we are stepping toward real freedom to choose the lives we want.”
That is the message of relationship building that he shares when he represents the Nation on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, he said.
Council member Connie Waddell also addressed the legislature by phone. She echoed what others said about the importance of being grounded in the past while moving toward a bright future.
“I’ve been grounded by where I come from for my whole life,” she said. “It guides me.”
She said her portfolios are finance, treaty, law and policy, and inter-government relations. Of these, finance is interconnected in everything the Nation does.
“I am diligent in running a tight ship, and by doing that we can break through challenges,” she said.
She said this is a good budget, but not an easy one. She said there were tough decisions to be made and still a lot of work to be done. She reassured citizens that it will be okay because of the good leadership and support of a strong finance committee and team.
Council member Ben Clappis was not in attendance due to a family medical emergency.
With the summaries completed, legislature moved on to dealing with the business on the table. This included the passing of the first reading of the Budget Act, 2019, the Financial Administration Act Amendment Act, 2019, the Economic Development Act Amendment Act, 2019, and the Government Act Amendment Act, 2019. All first readings were passed. It was noted that the Budget Act, 2019 will be changing slightly because the Finance Committee still must make its recommendations on the Citizen Motions from the People’s Assembly. Council meets this week to decide on the final budget that will be brought forward for second reading and adoption.
The Second Sitting of Legislature takes place on Friday, March 22, beginning at 10 am in Council Chambers at the Anacla Government Office. This meeting is open to the public and will be livestreamed to Facebook.