Quesnel Officially Recognizes First Nation Territory
Quesnel, B.C. – Quesnel City Council and the Lhtako Dene Nation Council have signed a memorandum of understanding.
The City says the MOU “recognizes the Lhtako Dene Nation traditional territory and symbolizes a commitment to work in cooperative intergovernmental relations on future partnership opportunities around economic development, natural resource management, efficient and affordable service delivery and cooperative land use.”
It was signed at Tuesday’s public council meeting and was the culmination of two-years of dialogue says Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson.
“When I was first elected mayor, and in my first public engagement, the MP and MLA got up and recognized that we were on the traditional territory of the Lhtako Dene, which is known as the Red Bluff Indian Band,” he tells 250News.
“It’s the group of First Nations that actually settled what we would properly call the City of Quesnel and our downtown core area – both sides of the Quesnel, Fraser and Baker Creek. And that population of Lhtako Dene at one point was as high as 15,000. It was apparently the second highest concentration of First Nations in the province next to Haida Gwaii.”
Simpson says that population was later devastated when settlers came with western diseases.
“It’s not a stretch to say that the City of Quesnel is actually literally built on the bones of the Lhtako Dene people.”
Hence the need to form a partnership.
“So, when I stood to speak at the first public engagement, I realized I could not say as the mayor of Quesnel that we did in fact recognize Lhtako Dene territory because we didn’t,” he says.
“We didn’t have any recognition symbols in any of our civic properties, we had no relationships with Lhtako Dene per se, and we didn’t really recognize and have a partnership with the Lhtako Dene as a founding peoples in our community.”
Simpson says two years of extensive collaboration between both parties followed ending with the formal ceremony this week.
He says the end product of those discussions includes new recognition symbols of their relationship. Those will be placed in council chambers, City Hall, the airport, the Visitor Centre and throughout the community.
“It’s a formal and meaningful recognition and above and beyond that, we’re now in a position where government to government we can have the dialogue that allows us to develop partnerships and to work on really developing our community together.”
Simpson says they are already working on their first partnership – a Lhtako Dene cultural centre in downtown Quesnel.