Several First Nation communities in B.C’s central Interior have become “sister communities” with a city in the Lower Mainland after several years of relationship building.
The City of New Westminster and Tsilhqot’in Nation — which is made up of the six communities of Tl’etinqox, ʔEsdilagh, Yuneŝit’in, Tŝideldel, Tl’esqox and Xeni Gwet’in— committed to work together and support one another after the virtual signing of a sister community memorandum of agreement on Thursday, Oct. 15.
“By becoming sister communities with the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, we are formalizing an important relationship that we have been building over the past three years and more,” Mayor Jonathan X. Coté said in a joint news release.
The signed agreement marks the first such relationship between the City of New Westminster and an Indigenous Nation.
New Westminster already had a sister city relationship with the Tsilhqot’in community of Tl’etinqox (Anaham) that was borne through the friendship of city councillor Chuck Puchmayr and TNG tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse.
Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) interim vice-chair Chief Jimmy Lulua said the City of New Westminster has stood by their Nation to right the wrongs of the past.
In July 2019, a Tsilhqot’in delegation joined City leaders to witness the removal of a statue of Judge Matthew Begbie from outside New Westminster’s provincial courthouse. Later that month, both parties co-hosted a ceremony to commemorate the wrongful trial and hanging of Tsilhqot’in war Chief ?Ahan.
?Ahan is believed to be buried in New Westminster, where he was tried and hanged on July 18, 1865. Five other Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs were ordered to be executed by Begbie the previous year in Quesnel.
“Together, we have demonstrated that government and First Nations can form mutually respectful and progressive relationships that advance the goals of both parties and work to achieve reconciliation for Indigenous peoples,” Lulua said.
“The signing of this Sister Community Agreement makes it official, but the principles of this Sister Community Agreement and the Tŝilhqot’in relationship with the City of New Westminster have been strong for years now.”
In 2018, a fire truck was donated by the City of New Westminster to Tl’etinqox.