It was a day focused on understanding and relationship building at the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) Hall June 14 as nearly 80 community members, politicians and business people came to the Band’s first business networking forum.
The day-long event took participants through an oral telling of the Sechelt Nation’s history, a PowerPoint presentation of their governance structure and an open floor networking session for those wishing to do business with the Band.
“To me it’s about showcasing our Nation today, showcasing what our Nation’s all about, what it means to partner with us and how we can work together,” said SIB Chief Garry Feschuk. “We have to live side by side, so how can we do it together? That’s what today’s all about. And if there’s an opportunity for people who want to do business with the Band or even an opportunity to discuss plans with the Band, there are opportunities today because the door’s opening today.”
The event was spurred by a mandate given to SIB council by their membership calling for more business opportunities on Band lands.
But before the SIB was willing to talk business last Thursday, they wanted to ensure everyone in attendance understood where they were coming from.
Candace Campo started the cross-cultural workshop by explaining the Sechelt Nation creation story that says the Sechelt people are descendants of divine creatures sent by the Creator.
“Once he created the Earth and all of its creatures he went up to Heaven and he sent down his children. When he sent down his children from Heaven he sent them down to specific places within our territory,” Campo said.
She explained each group had different gifts such as fishing, the ability to carve paddles or canoes, the ability to make weaponry or the ability to make fire. Then all were told to share their talents with each other.
“And that is why today the Sechelt people are strong people because we shared our gifts and our talents with each other and were able to build a strong Nation,” Campo said.
She went on to describe the devastating effects of smallpox brought by traders on a once thriving Sechelt Nation whose numbers dropped from over 4,000 in the early 1800s to just 162 in 1902.
Following that decimating loss of population was the attempted assimilation of the Sechelt Nation into residential schools, Campo explained.
“It was illegal for our elders and our parents to teach the children their language, so the impacts are profound,” Campo said.
Co-cultural workshop leader Wesley Jeffries noted that in order to get to know one another it is important to know each other’s history.
“To share our stories and share a meal, that’s how we get to know one another. It sounds simple. We may think it’s complicated because there’s policies and rules and regulations, but if we all put that aside we will get to know one another,” he said.
With the history on the table and lunch under everyone’s belts, the second half of the event focused on business.
Band CAO Barbara Joe explained the SIB government make-up to the audience. She said a special group was going to be set up to look at business projects on a monthly basis and noted there are 33 parcels of land the SIB may be interested in developing.
“On those parcels of land we have the absolute jurisdiction to make any laws related to access, to management of wildlife, to prohibition of intoxicants and I think about 14 or 15 other areas of law making jurisdiction,” Joe said. “So that’s just giving you an idea that the SIB, the Sechelt Indian Band, that legal entity can make laws that are on par with the provincial government. So the provincial government’s laws do not apply to our Band lands.”
Ending the day on a high note was guest speaker Howard Rainer of the Native Wellness Institute. He encouraged attendees to challenge stereotypes and talk to SIB members personally.
“If you get to meet these people one on one, you’re going to be impressed,” he said.
The only advice he had for those looking for business partnership was to respect the Sechelt Nation’s beliefs and culture.
“They want people who are empathetic and respectful to their culture. They don’t want to deal with people who are disrespectful and don’t think highly of their culture. So get that into your norm and you’ll be OK,” he said.