Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht First Nations made history on Friday, February 7, 2020 when they signed a Protocol on Economic Development within Tseshaht Hahoulthee.
The agreement between the two nations is the first of its kind in the Alberni Valley, and it is a way of recognizing deep family connections and a strong relationship. The two nations are used to doing business together, as they have previously signed the Resource Management Agreement.
The protocol agreement is rooted in the sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of….), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One).
“This is about doing business in the right way,” explained Wahmeesh (Ken Watts), elected councillor for Tseshaht First Nations. “We appreciate the steps that were taken after we raised concerns, and we see this as a commitment to work together in a good way.”
To start things off right, the protocol was signed in the presence of both elected and hereditary leadership from both Nations, as well as respected elders to witness the event.
“Our two nations have always been close. Our elders held that relationship close to their hearts, but we were letting that drift away.” said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr., explaining that the connection is still important. He said in the past elders would have done business through hosting and attending potlatches. “Now we have to look at things differently in a modern world. Instead of potlatches we use paper, but we cannot forget our connections and our traditional ways of working together for the best of both nations.”
The agreement acknowledges that both Nations intend to explore ways to work together economically in Tseshaht ḥahuułi and outlines how that will take place in the future. It says that they will keep lines of communication open when it comes to potential partnerships, including business opportunities and investments within the ḥahuułi. This includes early communication on potential planned developments within Tseshaht ḥahuułi.
Both nations commit to holding annual reviews of the agreement and quarterly meetings to explore potential partnership opportunities. Huu-ay-aht will ensure that their businesses acknowledge that they are operating on Tseshaht territory and include appropriate signage.
“I am proud of what we are doing. It is a little step, but it shows we appreciate each other and our relationship,” explained Huu-ay-aht Hereditary Chief Jeff Cook. “I see a vision where all nations move forward together like this, and we’d all be successful. It’s about making a better life for our people and trying to improve all of our lives.”
Wahmeesh added that he too hopes that other nations will follow Huu-ay-aht’s lead and sign similar protocol agreements.
“This is important business that we are doing,” said Cynthia Dick, Elected Chief Councillor for Tseshaht. “It is a reminder that we are walking in both worlds, and it is amazing to see our nations put things aside to look for better ways to work together in the future.”
Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) said it is important to keep Tseshaht and Huu-ay-aht ties strong because they have always existed through family connections, pointing out the links his family has to Tseshaht’s hereditary leaders. Tseshaht’s Hereditary Chief Kʷaacaapi (Josh Goodwill) and Tayii Ḥaw̓ił E. Darlene Taylor were both at the signing. ƛiišin daughter Olivia Peters was also present to witness the historic event.
“This is an important step to demonstrate strengthening the ties of our Nations,” ƛiišin said. “As we move forward with our modern work, we cannot forget these ties, and I look forward to building a strong relationship.”