Kwantlen First Nation responds to APTN Investigates episode, We Are Not Extinct

APTN Investigates reporter Rob Smith was unsuccessful in getting anyone to comment from the Kwantlen First Nation for the episode, We Are Not Extinct which aired February 20, 2015. The Kwantlen chief and council were informed well in advance of the time and date of the broadcast. Just hours before the episode was about to air, the Kwantlen did respond in the form of a written statement emailed to Smith, which was too late to include in the story. Here it is in its entirety:

February 19, 2015
Statement by Kwantlen First Nation Council to APTN

On behalf of our Council and Elders at Kwantlen First Nation, we object and strongly disagree with the approach being taken by Robert Thomas and Florence Thomas, members of Kwantlen First Nation and several of their family members relative to raising awareness around the traditional history and importance of the Whonnock area.

Their approach to date has been characterizing their position as a Kwantlen versus Whonnock battle. We see little value in this approach. We acknowledge that Robert and his sisters and family have connections to Whonnock, as do many other people who are both members of Kwantlen, and other Sto:lo communities. Whonnock is an important area for our families, and to Kwantlen, and continues to be now and into the future.

We feel we are aligned with Robert and Florence and family members in our passion to honour the rich history of the Whonnock area, and the many ties we share to this area, as well as to steward and protect the importance of this area for future generations. We are strengthened by working together in this regard, and not making claims for separate status based on narrow and in our opinion, flawed interpretations of our shared history in this area.

We do not deny, but rather celebrate and honour the important history and relationship at Whonnock with the Kwantlen. We acknowledge that an important part of Kwantlen history is the close interactions between families at Whonnock and Kwantlen leading to Kwantlen being recognized by the federal Department of Indian Affairs with holding the small reserve land at Whonnock.
We care for and look after the Whonnock reserve land for the benefit of all of our members, many today with direct lineage to long-standing families from the Whonnock area.

Much of Kwantlen history in the area of the lower Fraser River area speaks of the breadth of Kwantlen presence in this region and many established village sites in areas in present-day Richmond, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Mission along the Fraser River and other tributaries flowing into the Fraser. Part of Kwantlen history and the Kwantlen legacy in this area is a fluidity of habitation and resource gathering areas within our traditional territory that would align with seasonal resource gathering in different parts of the territory, and the establishment of traditional protocols and laws to govern and guide access and understandings between families in this regard. This is how Kwantlen holds connections to the Whonnock area, and several other areas within our territory.

We have repeatedly requested and invited Robert and Florence to address their issues with our Council and Elder’s table in a good way – in a way fitting with our traditional values and teachings that can build an understanding for the future. Robert and his family members have chose instead to limit communication with us on their concerns and issues and take their positions instead to the media and external government. This approach only lengthens and complicates our abilities to reconcile differences.

We continue to invite and encourage Robert and family members to come and share their views and desires with our Council and Elders in more detail, as the only detail we can get is what we glean from media reports. We are hopeful to resolve this matter in a good way, to honour the close links we all share to Whonnock and the importance this area carries for us all.

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