The Lower Kootenay Band has admonished School District 8’s board of trustees for considering Indigenous acknowledgements that would include other B.C. and American bands.
Chief Jason Louie delivered a searing critique of the district during a meeting last week. The district in turn reiterated it had already backed away from suggested changes to how schools acknowledge traditional territories after an April 12 meeting with the band council.
The band preferred the current acknowledgement read out prior to board meetings and school events that makes no mention of either the Ktunaxa Nation, which includes the district within its traditional territorial, or any other First Nation.
“I don’t know why they want to go down this political road but they’ve engaged us,” he told the Star after the meeting. “We have no other choice but to oblige.”
Indigenous acknowledgements have become a popular symbolic gesture in Canada. They differ depending on land claims and regional history, and have become more widely used following the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 2015 report.
The statements have also been criticized as being empty rhetoric by Indigenous advocates.
The Kootenay Lake school district adopted its own acknowledgement in 2015. One year later Nelson city council followed suit, but made revisions in 2018 that specifically named the Ktunaxa, Metis, Syilx (Okanagan), and Sinixt peoples.
The school district began considering a similar change last year, according to superintendent Christine Perkins. Two acknowledgements were proposed: one used district-wide would include the Ktunaxa, Metis, Syilx, Sinixt and Secwepemc (Shuswap), while another used in the Creston area would only make reference to the Ktunaxa.
Louie said the Lower Kootenay Band would not stand for the change, which he said would contradict its own land claims.
“We’re not going to concede to that because we’re currently in a treaty process, we’re currently exploring the possibility or rights and title. The moment we acknowledge [those bands], we’re giving up our territory. We’re conceding there are other First Nations here as well,” he said.
“There’s too much at stake so there’s no way in hell that we’re going to be acknowledging these other First Nations are in our territory.”
His presentation confused and rattled the board, which had considered the matter closed after its spring meeting with the band.
“To me there is no argument,” said superintendent Christine Perkins. “We continue to work on building positive relationships with Chief Louie because we want the best for our kids.
“As far as we’re concerned we’re in relationship-building mode and we’re moving forward. We’re not in a fight with them.”
Perkins said the suggested changes came out of discussions within the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee and Elder’s Council. Representatives from the Sinixt, Syilx and Secwepemc were invited to participate in the committee this year.
She added the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s education recommendations as well as Canada’s 2010 commitment to The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, also provided direction in considering new acknowledgements.
“It’s no small thing at all,” said Perkins. “To me, we’re trying to learn, we’re trying to follow truth, we’re trying to walk together with Lower Kootenay Band in reconciliation.”