BC Legislative Assembly Speaker, Hon. Raj Chouhan has been working with the Songhees and Esquimalt people, along with Indigenous communities across the province, to take positive steps toward reconciliation and broadening the cultural presence in the building and on the precinct.
We celebrated the unveiling of signage along the frontage of the Assembly precinct that was guided by Elder Elmer George to ensure the lək̓ʷəŋən language will stand in posterity in our governing institution.
I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge the important event that happened at the front of the Legislature today. I just wanted to take a moment to raise my hands to you, Mr. Speaker, for the important and powerful words that you shared on behalf of this Legislative Assembly, on the effort that you have undertaken with respect to the journey of reconciliation that this institution necessarily needs to be on and that we need to remain committed to.
I just want to raise my hands in gratitude as a person who is from the SENĆOŦEN-speaking lands to the north of here, the W̱SÁNEĆ people, W̱JOȽEȽP village. I come from a very proud family, and I come from a family that has lots of connections to these lands down here. But I still feel a stranger and a visitor in these lands, the lək̓ʷəŋən-speaking lands.
I think, Mr. Speaker, your act of putting those words in front, bringing our families here from both the lək̓ʷəŋən-speaking villages, the lək̓ʷəŋən-speaking people here, and ensuring that inscribed in front of this Legislature are important messages that have been shared with us, the work done by Dr. Elmer George and the Thomas family and, many, many others, Mr. Speaker….
It’s important that, I think, all members of this place understand what those words are. Starting on the east and moving west, the first inscription: “We thank our warriors that go to war.” The second inscription: “We hold gratitude and respect for those who do not come back.” The third: “They gave our lives for us.” The fourth: “Thank you, ancestors, [lək̓ʷəŋən was spoken.]”
“It’s good that you settlers are one together with the lək̓ʷəŋən people,” is the next one. “Working together as one, our children will become strong.” And finally, “We all love the children. Every child matters.”
From a person that comes from the W̱SÁNEĆ territory and visits this institution every day to do my work, I raise my hands in gratitude on behalf of our families as being a witness to that event today. Thank you for the leadership you’re showing with this precinct, Mr Speaker. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM. And when I say SIÁM, I mean SIÁM in the way that we use that word. We hold you up. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.