Witnesses wrap up second day of Coast Salish Gathering

Witnesses perform a key function at tribal events. They are asked to speak at the end of the day to share what they have learned.

Albie Charlie, Cowichan Nation:

When you really listen with your heart, listen to the tears of our elders. Our teachers told us the land, the sea, the water, and everything on earth was life. I can never forget how our elders sat us down to share a teaching in our language. You heard one of our elders speaking, the importance of our language, the importance of our Indian names. It gives us a history of where we are and where we come from, to see what’s important to us.

This was a highway that bound our families together. There was no border. Our young people today don’t know the importance of relationships, sometimes they don’t know their roots. It’s important that we teach our chidren the roots of where we come from.

The government says we’re going to work collaboratively together. We are going to work together with one mind, one spirit – respectfully.

Sometimes we have to look and see what the government is doing to us. They’re dividing us. They’re putting up boundaries. The government makes us compete against one another rather than help one another.

Today we’re going to walk out of here richer.

Patti Gobin, Tulalip Tribes:

I know where I come from because of my grandmother. This was a way of life for us, raised at the feet of our grandmothers and aunties. That’s where we learned about co-management.

My grandmother never would have imagined us sitting here as Coast Salish people with government officials and being equal players at the table.

In our longhouse, they’ll tell you if you’ve done something right or wrong. What happened here was good. All the protocols were followed. Only goodness will come from it.

Key words I heard:

When I looked up co-management, I found a picture of Billy Frank Jr. He was saying, “It’s not about the fight for fish anymore. It’s over. We can’t fight anymore. We have to work together.”

From white cap to white cap.

Environment Canada said, “Our commitment is strong.” We’re going to hold you to that.

Tom Laurie from Ecology said, “It’s all about relationships.” Let me in. Let me be a player at that table.

Department of Fish and Oceans acknowledged our 10,000 years of experience. I appreciate your acknowledgement.

Tom Sampson: “The gifts from our ancestors. We need to grow up together, stop fighting like little children. How do we create the space to get the work done?”

It’s about what’s right for all our people, but my number one priority is Coast Salish, because I am Coast Salish.

Ian MacLeod, Environment Canada:

I’m impressed with the passion and knowledge and respect everyone has for the Salish Sea.

Language matters. Sometimes we say things in our bureaucratese that means something to us, but means something else to someone else. When we use language, we need to understand each other.

There’s a lot of learning going on. An exchange of information. Willingness to learn. Teaching.

First nation leadership matters and can make a change.

I think we heard governments asking first nations to help us show the way. Lawyers say we need to take court action. I hope we don’t.

The clock is ticking. The Salish Sea is sick. Steps need to be taken.

This gathering itself is valuable and unique.

If we don’t find a way to make use of 10,000 years of knowledge, I don’t think that’s right.

Peter Murchie, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

I’m deeply humbled to be here and to be the last person to speak. It’s a huge responsibility.

I’m a new visitor and resident of the Salish Sea. I’m going to be raising my son so that he doesn’t have to come to a conference to learn what it means to be a Salish Sea resident, so the shared goal of a healthy, vibrant Salish Sea is his goal naturally.

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