October 30, 2023 By P&PC Staff
The Tla’amin Nation and the British Columbia government have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing to work together on a future for tiskwat that furthers economic reconciliation and environmental stewardship in the region.
The MOU was signed at tiskwat, once Tla’amin’s principal settlement and currently the site of the former Paper Excellence-owned pulp and paper mill
The signing was witnessed by the oldest and youngest living Tla’amin members to symbolize the destructive legacy and the generational opportunity that the two governments recognize at tiskwat. The MOU recognizes the historical and contemporary social, cultural and economic significance of the former mill site to the Tla’amin Nation.
“This is a once in 150-year opportunity for Tla’amin to have some level of reconciliation at tiskwat. We need to responsibly manage the decaying infrastructure and create new opportunities so that future generations are not saddled with a toxic legacy,” said Tla’amin Hegus John Hackett. “tiskwat is our homeland and this MOU is a powerful symbol of the province’s commitment to work differently with Tla’amin and to ensure the greatest degree of local benefit.”
Titled yiχmɛtštəm tiskʷat (we are going to take care of tiskwat), the MOU focuses on three areas of collaboration – environmental stewardship, economic development and Tla’amin’s long-term goal of site repossession. Through the MOU, the Nation and the Province will maintain a multi-ministry intergovernmental forum to address Tla’amin’s interests at tiskwat.
Tla’amin has conducted significant due diligence regarding environmental liabilities, site management requirements and economic opportunities at the site. It also has an active specific claim filed with Canada on the tiskwat site.
Paper Excellence Canada congratulated the Tla’amin Nation and the province on the signing of the historic MOU. The company shared in a press statement that it recognizes the importance of tiskwat to the Tla’amin Nation as a former village site and site of historical and contemporary social, cultural, and economic significance.
The history of the tiskwat site
Sharing the history of the site, the Tla’amin Nation explained that they were forcibly removed from their principal settlement of tiskwat in the late 1880s. The river adjacent to the Tla’amin settlement was dammed, eradicating one of the richest salmon runs on the south coast of B.C., upon which the Tla’amin people relied.
The dam constructed on the site in the early 1900s reportedly provided power to the pulp and paper mill, which was a major economic force in the region for over 100 years, providing jobs and significant tax revenue for local governments.
The mill ceased operations in 2021, and Paper Excellence announced the permanent curtailment of mill operations on Aug. 16, 2023. The site is currently for sale.
The yiχmɛtštəm tiskʷat (we are going to take care of tiskwat) MOU is meant to chart a path for responsible site stewardship, intergovernmental cooperation and economic reconciliation, and to safeguard the future of tiskwat and prevent abandonment of the property.
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