There are Compelling Historic Reasons

First Peoples in British Columbia

A Royal BC Museum/BC Treaty Commission production

The border of British Columbia is a relatively new line drawn across a land that has nurtured and sustained an amazing diversity of people, plants and animals for thousands of years.

Today, more than 30 indigenous languages survive, passing the lifelines of knowledge and culture down through time. And through language, the First Peoples can still reach out to send their greetings from the places of their birth.

Since the beginning, the rivers, seas and lakes, mountains and the valleys have offered food, clean water, and forests for shelter and warmth. Often divided by rugged terrain, the human societies grew self reliant, in tune with the intricate variety of life that thrives in these radically different landscapes.

Using specialized tools and technologies, First Peoples traveled, traded and timed their lives to coincide with the multitude of natural harvests that occur throughout the seasons.

Then, a little over 200 years ago, European explorers brought a new set of values to these lands. Sea otter skins became big business in coastal communities. Through trade in otter and salmon, the European people and their technology began to influence life and events. And from then on, the changes were swift and often terrible.

With the foreigners came diseases for which there was no defence. We will never know how many perished, but only a fraction of the First Peoples were left when the measles and small pox had run their course.

The government suppressed the culture and values of the indigenous people.

People were forcibly moved from their homes, children removed from communities to church run residential schools where their cultural identity was stripped away.

Despite the many deaths, the dislocation and harsh treatment, the First Peoples have endured, keeping their rich culture and traditions alive into the modern world.

Many of British Columbia’s biggest towns and cities spread out from where First Peoples’ settlements and seasonal camps once stood.

On the surface the transformation may seem complete. Look more closely, and you will find that this is still a world of First Peoples, where art, ceremony and a rich spirit realm combine to honour the past, celebrate the present and direct the future.

Now First Peoples use science together with traditional knowledge to maintain their many trails through time. So far, thirty thousand places have been found holding clues to the First Peoples’ heritage. Even the smallest pieces of the past can shed new light on the knowledge and skills that let so many people live strong and independent lives throughout this land before the era of the machine.

Recognizing these skills, and acknowledging the number and diversity of the human beings who practice them represents a new chapter in the story of First Peoples.

Now change is in the air. Reaching across the cultural divides, reconciliation and treaty making will bring new relationships and true partnership

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