While acknowledging it has been a “long, hard road” getting to the day, the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation accepted a proclamation from the City of Parksville Wednesday in the first Aboriginal Day ceremony of its kind in the city.
“What this means is my nation has recognition and understanding between our neighbouring communities,” said Christopher Bob, hereditary Chief and elected member of the Snaw-Naw-As band council. “It’s a healthy start to our relationship and a beautiful thing to me.”
Mayor Marc Lefebvre recognized the city is within the traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples and said it was time the city hosted a recognition ceremony for aboriginal day.
“We recognize you’ve been here a lot longer than we have, and that Canada is an aboriginal nation,” said Lefebvre. “It’s as simple as that.”
With elected Chief Brent Edwards unable to attend, the Snaw-Naw-As were represented by former elected chief Wayne Edwards, Snaw-Naw-As health director Donna Edwards and Chief Bob.
Guests in attendance included Parksville city councillors and staff, representative of Qualicum Beach council and the Regional District of Nanaimo board, School District 69 (Qualicum), Vancouver Island University and both Oceanside RCMP and the Parksville Volunteer Fire Department.
Wayne Edwards said the acknowledgement of Aboriginal Day was meaningful and a personal highlight for him.
“It’s been a long, hard road to travel to get to come to an event like this,” Edwards told the audience. “If you want me to come and sing a song or cook your salmon, I’m not going to do that. But if you want to sit down and have a meaningful dialogue, then I will come.”
Coun. Kirk Oates, whose motion at council’s last meeting led to Wednesday’s ceremony, read the city’s official proclamation recognizing June 21, 2017 as National Aboriginal Day in Parksville.
In part, the proclamation said, “The City of Parksville recognizes the people of the Coast Salish nations and their territory upon which the city is located… and recognizes the culture, heritage and diversity of the indigenous people of Canada and our friendship with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation.”
“And I urge my fellow citizens to celebrate the tradition and the history of our indigenous peoples,” Oates finished.
The message was taken to heart by Wayne Edwards, who has been skeptical of Canada’s ability as a country to reconcile its history with its indigenous peoples.
“I don’t think we can truly have reconciliation,” he said. “But if we put our differences aside, we’re already reconciled.”
Oates then presented the framed copy of the proclamation to Bob, who promised it would be placed in a position of prominence in the Snaw-Naw-As administration building.
Following his remarks, Edwards presented a carved eagle feather to Lefebvre who accepted it on behalf of the city. Lefebvre said the carving would also be placed in a prominent position within city hall.
He then offered attendees to enjoy some of the food and drink provided for the event.
“We hope to see you again very soon, and work together with you on whatever you’d like to work on,” Lefebvre told the Snaw-Naw-As delegation.