Through the Cowichan Watershed Board’s Co-Chair model, Cowichan Tribes and the CVRD have developed strong partnerships and demonstrated a deep commitment to moving down the path of reconciliation. Water—a vital shared resource—has provided a critical vehicle for the partners to respectfully work together, with a common focus on the health of the Cowichan watershed and all of its residents, now and into the future.
Some of the ways in which the CWB manifests local steps towards reconciliation include:
- Recognition of territory. Territorial recognition is demonstrated in the Cowichan Recognition Statement, which was supported unanimously for inclusion in the CWB’s Governance Manual (2018), and verbally by CVRD and CWB leaders during public meetings.
- Active inclusion of Cowichan Tribes culture and language in CWB events and meetings. Both the CVRD Chair and CWB Executive Director have taken Hul’q’umi’num’ language classes to be able to open a meeting in both languages. Important meetings begin with a welcome from a Cowichan Elder or representative.
- Recognition of the inherent authority of Cowichan Tribes that manifests through the Watershed Board. For example, this is demonstrated by the acceptance of the Cowichan Recognition Statement into the Governance Manual.
- Adoption of the principle Nutsamat kws yaay’us tth qa’: We come together as a whole to work together to be stronger as partners for the watershed. This Cowichan Tribes principle is now included in the updated 2018 CWB Governance Manual, with recognition that significant training is required for Board members to fully understand the meaning of this principle and how it translates into CWB operations and decision-making.
- Indigenous voice in decision-making on matters that affect Cowichan Tribes and their territory. As reflected at the CWB table, Cowichan Tribes’ authority and responsibilities are not limited to on-reserve lands but encompass the whole watershed.
- Inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge. This is built into the CWB membership and technical working groups that generate recommendations to the Board. The CWB’s partnership approach to water can serve as a model of how Indigenous nations can move forward with governments at all levels. The benefits of working together are particularly valuable as communities face the stresses of climate change, population growth, and other pressures.
Cowichan Recognition Statement
In March 2018, the CWB unanimously approved incorporating the following statement into the CWB Governance Manual, to acknowledge Cowichan Tribes’ history on the land and inherent rights:
Quw’utsun mustmuhw, ni’ ‘o’ ni’ tthu sht’esulh kws‘i tst ‘u tun’a tumuhw, ‘i ‘o’ hwun st’e. Nilh ‘o’ thu-’it syuw’entst, tun ni’ ‘u kwthu hwun’a mustimuhw‘i wutl’uts’ ’i ‘u tun’a tumuhwtst. Ni’ yuxtse’tum tthu Quw’utsun ‘u tthu-i tumuhw, qa’, kw’atl’kwa tthu ni’ spupin’ ‘u tthu tumuhw, ttho’ mukw’ stem ni’ hakw ni’ ‘u tthu stl’ulnuptst. Kwuthu shtunni’ ’iws tst ni’ yuxtse’tum ‘u ttho’ mukw’ stem ni’ ha’kw kws thuthi’s kws huli-s. O’ nilh tthu Quw’utsun mustumuhw, ni lemuxutunstum ‘u tthu ni’ snuwuntewut ‘u tthu shtunaalhtun, tst. Uwu tumtemus ‘i’ ni’ tst tsmem’t ‘aanlh kws kwun-etewut, hwayum tun’a s’aalh stl’ulnup. Quw’utsun Mustimuhw, ha’kwush tst kw’ stutul’na’mut sxetsul’s kw’ shtuhims tthu stl’ulnuptst. Mukw’ stem ‘o’ slhilukw’tul ‘i’ nilh ni’ shkw’akw’ums tthu sulsuli’tst.
Cowichan Peoples have existing inherent rights. Cowichan as the original Peoples of this territory within which the Cowichan Watershed is included continue the right and responsibility to make informed decisions to manage and organize based on our history and continued connections. As told through time by our ancestors; the lands, waters, seas, minerals, air and all elements interconnected within the territories provided for and can provide a good sustainable life for Cowichan Peoples. Cowichan has never given away this right and continue to govern and make decisions to support the well-being and sustainability of our Peoples and territories.
The Cowichan Watershed Board (CWB) gratefully acknowledges the financial support of these organizations.