Secwepemc Nation, BC Hydro look to the future with new relationship agreement protocol

A new relationship protocol agreement will see BC Hydro move from a project driven approach towards a nation-level engagement model with the Secwepemc Nation. The agreement is being seen by both BC Hydro and the 11 signing Secwepemc member nations as an opportunity for new beginnings.

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BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald (left), Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian, and BC Hydro deputy CEO Chris O'Riley stand outside the Revelstoke Community Centre after a ceremony to celebrate the signing of a new relationship protocol agreement. Photo: BC Hydro

BC Hydro representatives and Secwepemc First Nation members gathered in Revelstoke on Wednesday to celebrate the signing of a relationship protocol agreement.

The agreement is being called an important first step towards building a new relationship between BC Hydro and Secwepemc member nations. In total, 11 of the 17 Secwepemc member nations signed the protocol agreement.

The agreement is the result of two years of discussions, brought about when several members of the Secwepemc Nation saw an opportunity to engage with BC Hydro to address Secwepemc interests. The agreement will see BC Hydro move from a project driven approach towards a nation-level engagement model with the Secwepemc Nation.

The Secwepemc traditional territory covers approximately 180,000 square km. Image: BC Hydro

Wednesday’s celebration included a gift exchange between BC Hydro and representatives of member nations who signed the agreement. Speeches were also made and Secwepemc representatives spoke to the need to create proactive and positive relationships moving forward.

“Today represents a new beginning – recognizing the challenges of the past, but focused on new opportunities for the future,” said Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian.

Christian spoke about the cultural significance water has for the Secwepemc people.

“Water is big because we are taught we were water beings before we were human beings,” he said. “Our ancestors had fishing right here in Revelstoke. We need to know and understand as we take over our responsibilities we need to get to know and get involved with the people in our territories.”

Bonaparte Chief Ryan Day said he is excited about what the new relationship will hold, but recognizes it will be a process.

“It’s going to be a process and an evolution for our people to take up responsibility to repair things that have been damaged in the past,” he said.

Neskonlith councillor Art Anthony spoke about the healing that needs to take place, including internal healing within the Secwepemc Nation.

“Today is part of the time when we are getting back to our land and taking responsibility for decisions on our lands. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, even internally within our nation,” he said. “For our future generations it’s still a lot of work. It’s still the beginning, we’re still getting organized.”

Jessica McDonald, BC Hydro chief executive officer said she is proud to have the opportunity to begin building a new relationship.

“It’s been a very, very long path to get here today,” she said. “BC Hydro is proud and honoured to have the opportunity to begin to build a new relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.