Charla Huber: Innovative technologies can still honour ancient teachings

We’ve been told that water is essential for life. There are many phrases in every culture that reference this. We can’t go very long without water. Space programs are even geared to seek planets that have this element required for human life.

Recently, I attended the Premier’s Lunch hosted by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and was seated at the same table as T’Sou-ke Nation Chief Gordon Planes. During our lunch he held up a glass of water and reminded us that our region’s water supply comes from T’Sou-ke Nation’s territory.

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“This is our territory and we are working to ensure clean water forever,” said Planes. “We need to ensure environmental integrity.”

Planes also shared early thinking with chamber staff and business leaders about his nation’s aspirations surrounding an ecosystem service fee. He wants to replicate successful examples of voluntary ecosystem service fees already being collected in Clayoquot Sound and off the coast of Tanzania.

“There are many great things we can do with these service fees to make the world a better place — for our children and our children not born yet,” said Planes.

I’ve taken the Capital Regional District’s day-long watershed tour, and appreciated Planes’ reminder of our water coming from T’Sou-ke Territory. To truly work in partnership with Indigenous communities, we need to be respectful of traditional territories and find the connection between our daily lives and historical practices.

Planes is a leader known for his quest for environmental sustainability. T’Sou-ke Nation is being recognized across our country for its work. It has been a pioneer in environmental innovation, including the utilization of solar power, promotion of electric cars and in methods of food production.

When Planes speaks about environmental integrity, he includes his vision of T’Sou-ke Nation growing its own food. That includes traditional foods such as seafood, along with medicinal roots, shoots and berries.

Planes has drafts of maps that identify sources of traditional foods within the T’Sou-ke Nation’s traditional territory.

“We want to make an inventory and evaluation of all of our wildlife populations. This is just the beginning,” Planes said. “We want to invest in our territory through capacity building and growth for our community and region. Food sovereignty is the most important.”

What I find fascinating about Planes’ goals is he is using modern science to revitalize ancient cultural teachings. This is the best of both worlds.

The work Planes wants to accomplish will study deer populations, look into why the geese in the territory don’t leave during winter and find a solution to increase water quality, allowing for the salmon to return to the Sooke Potholes.

“My grandmother always said it was the place where the spring salmon give themselves back to Mother Earth,” said Planes who explained he is in the process of leading his nation into a future of cultural longevity, self reliance and environmental awareness.

I admire Planes and his council for looking at environmental stability as a foundation to self-reliance. If we lose our environment, we lose everything.

“At T’Sou-ke Nation, we need to make an investment to ensure the health for future generations,” said Planes. “We are on our journey to self-governance and self-determination.”

I think it’s important for everyone to acknowledge that in our Capital Regional District there are 13 municipalities and 10 First Nations and together there are 23 local governments. I think that this is often an overlooked point.

“Through treaty, I see an opportunity for our youth to gain control of our territory,” said Planes explaining his nation has been sitting at treaty negotiation tables for 20 years. “We are working to get out from under the wing of the Indian Act.”

The treaty process is a complicated and slow-moving process. It can be hard to understand, but the part I do understand is that when First Nations can gain more control over their own governance and land, it will provide better opportunities to level the playing field for nations to work in partnership with neighbouring communities.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society and M’akola Development Services.

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