The Town of Creston’s regular council meeting on March 9 began with a land acknowledgement from Mayor Ron Toyota, marking the first time the municipality has honoured the Yaqan Nukiy — the original inhabitants of the land where the Creston Valley is situated — before one of their meetings.
“I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Yaqan Nukiy within the Ktunaxa Nations,” said Toyota to kick off the meeting.
Nasukin Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) was in attendance, representing the Yaqan Nukiy. He thanked Toyota and council members for the land acknowledgement and asked that everybody feel the meaning of its words.
“In order for it to be meaningful, it can not be seen as just a formality, that this is how we start the meeting and the words are forgotten. Hopefully, the words will always be heard,” said Louie.
Formulating the land acknowledgement was a four-month-long collaborative effort between Louie, Toyota and staff at the Town of Creston. The idea was first proposed by both Louie and Toyota in November.
“We wanted it to be meaningful. We didn’t rush into this. All in all, for about three months, we would pass back and forth some of the wording. We critiqued it, and the outcome was what was read at the town council meeting,” said Louie. “Although it is brief, we don’t want it to be too wordy. It was just right and it captures the spirit of acknowledging the first peoples of this valley.”
He added that to acknowledge the land is to honour the Yaqan Nukiy people, both past and present.
“Our ancestors have been buried in this land. Their spirit is still in this valley, so this is in honour of them. I think of them. I think of the handful of Elders that are still with us, and it honours them,” he said. “They are really the reason I’m able to do this job — their teachings, their direction. These are just words that need to be said. We are in a community, we are in a valley.”
According to Toyota, land acknowledgements will be made before every Town of Creston meeting going forward. Louie described this measure as a positive step in furthering the process of reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is something that should be ongoing. Just because we’ve done this land acknowledgement, it doesn’t end there,” said Louie. “We need to live those words, and the acts of reconciliation need to happen every day.”
He stressed that paving the path towards reconciliation is not limited to the leadership of the Town of Creston or the LKB, but that all residents of the Creston Valley have a role to play in furthering it.
“We’re always going to be neighbours, and the LKB is striving to be good neighbours with the Town of Creston,” he said.
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