Drumbeats reverberate in my chest as dancers of all ages, from across the region, filter into the centre of the arbour.
An Indigenous veteran in a navy blue suit and a tiny boy in colourful regalia walk across the grass as voices rise around us. Words can’t adequately express the range of beauty, determination and culture represented at the Kamloopa Pow Wow and this, the 40th annual, may have been the biggest one yet.
Kamloops council was fortunate to have a ground-level view of ceremonial dancers, singers and drummers at the powwow earlier this month as we were again invited by Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir and council to walk in the Grand Entry.
Affirming the language, traditions and heritage of our Indigenous friends is something I don’t take lightly. I first had the chance to participate in Grand Entry last year. Acknowledging our region’s colonial history, as a person of settler heritage, I felt incredibly humbled to participate.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), adopted in 2007, affirms that Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples and recognizes they have suffered from historic injustices as a result of colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources.
UNDRIP recognizes the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, to respect and promote their rights and to welcome the fact they are organizing themselves for political, economic, social and cultural enhancement.
The City of Kamloops and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc have made working together a priority and Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and Casimir have set a strong tone for this term. This past February, the two governments signed a Letter of Understanding outlining a basis for working together in the spirit of co-operation and partnership.
TteS Coun. Thomas Blank and I are co-chairs of the new Joint Culture and Heritage Committee, on which TteS Coun. Jeanette Jules and Kamloops Coun. Sadie Hunter (supported by senior staff) also participate.
Together, we discuss ongoing process and protocols, along with specific projects, such as a potential cultural centre at the former Stuart Wood elementary and interpretive signage on McArthur Island.
The city’s external relations manager has been taking Secwépemctsín classes and, thanks to TteS language co-ordinator Ted Gottfriedson, I’ve begun studying it as well. It’s a fascinating way to learn about the culture and customs of a people who were on this land thousands of years before my own ancestors.
Kamloops council has also been made familiar with UNDRIP, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action for municipalities and the BC Heritage Conservation Act.
Twice a year, TteS and Kamloops participate in a Community to Community Forum, during which topics of importance are discussed. TteS and Kamloops staff are in regular contact on an ongoing basis on many topics, from event planning to development opportunities. The recent collaboration on the Xget’tem’ Trail is just one example of this, while the No. 18 Mt Paul transit route, which began less than a year ago and which I hope to see expand, is another.
TteS and Kamloops councils also played a friendly game of slo-pitch last year at the rehabilitated Tyee Ball Park. I hear a round of golf may also be in the works.
I speak on behalf of each of my colleagues when I say we work on a strong relationship with our neighbours not only because it’s important, but because we want to.
With sustained efforts and respect, I believe the relationship between the two governments will continue to grow and thrive.
We may not be able to undo the past, but together we can work toward a better future.
Kathy Sinclair is a Kamloops councillor. Council columns are published monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. To contact Sinclair, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this column, email email@example.com.