Messages from Chief Lydia Hwitsum
It was wonderful to connect with so many of you at our Annual Audit Meeting on October 19th. The meeting was held both in person and by Zoom. We talked about the highlights and financial statements from the 2021-2022 fiscal year, both of which are featured in our Annual Report. I was pleased to have this opportunity to both speak with our community members about what was accomplished, and hear from participants about their priorities. Looking ahead, I am well aware that we have much more work to do and I am committed to improving the lives of our people, especially our Elders and our youth. We will have the questions and answers from the event printed in an upcoming newsletter, and have included some photos from the event in this edition.
Our community and our Council members are very concerned about safety, the poisoned drug supply, and drug houses. Specifically related to drug activity on reserve, I have been in contact with the RCMP and am working to get the full allocation of officers dedicated to our community in place. We need to develop a long-term strategy so we can all play a role in addressing these issues. I look forward to talking more with our community about this in the future.
Lastly, both flu and COVID-19 are circulating in our community. Ts’ewultun Health held a successful three day drive thru and walk up flu and COVID vaccine clinic in October. For anyone not able to attend one of our clinics, I encourage you to book a vaccine appointment by calling (250) 715-1024 or book online at: www.tsewulhtunhealth.janeapp.com.
Hwial’asmut ch tun’ s-ye’lh (Take care of your health)
Drought renews urgency for action on Cowichan Lake Weir
October 22, 2022
I am pleased to share an excerpt from a letter my Cowichan Watershed Board co-chair, Lori Iannidinardo and I wrote regarding the urgent need to move the Cowichan Weir replacement project forward. The full text can be found in the Times Colonist.
The Cowichan Lake Weir is a seasonal dam that has regulated water flow from spring to fall since 1957. Licensed and operated by Paper Excellence, it is used to store water and control the outflow from the lake into the Cowichan River, providing water for both the pulp mill and the river ecosystem through the dry months.
The mill’s water licence requires that river flows must be maintained above critical fish habitat thresholds, but increasingly, that requirement has been physically impossible to meet due to changing weather patterns. After decades of study, a broad consensus has emerged that we must work together to raise that weir.
If no action is taken, it is likely that in many years, the Cowichan River will not support fall salmon returns. A river without fish is an unacceptable outcome for Cowichan Tribes, who have stewarded and been sustained by the river and its salmon runs for millennia.
Most other southeastern Vancouver Island rivers lack such an opportunity to store water for the vital fall flows that bring the salmon home. The weir on Cowichan Lake has the potential to be the lynchpin of climate mitigation for southern Vancouver Island rivers, but only if it is rebuilt to meet our current climate reality.
This is not a new issue. For more than 30 years people in the region have been conducting studies and calling on authorities to take action.
In 2017-2018, a formal water use planning process was completed, engaging a diverse group of knowledge holders, affected residents and government representatives to review the extensive studies and options.
This group reached a clear consensus for the first time: A new weir is needed to provide 70 centimetres of additional water storage. Building on that, thanks to funding from the Canada-B.C. Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and project leadership from the regional government, the recommended infrastructure upgrade is now designed and shovel-ready.
This year, Cowichan Tribes, the CVRD and Paper Excellence signed a memorandum of understanding articulating our commitment to work as partners to pursue a water conservation licence for the additional water storage.
The time is now for the province to fulfil their commitment to help us complete this project. The new weir fits perfectly in the current government’s goals and mandates — to reconciliation, climate adaptation, economic sustainability and watershed security. We look forward to B.C.’s support to get this project over the finish line. This includes resourcing and assuming potential liabilities associated with the project.
If significant rain does not come soon, the Cowichan River may sadly be on “life support” again this fall, with electric pumps trying to do what nature should, ushering our salmon relatives home to lay their eggs for the next generation.
Doing nothing is not an option. A higher weir is needed, and needed now. This is a golden opportunity to inspire and demonstrate to all British Columbians what a community-driven solution to climate change adaptation and reconciliation looks like.
With all levels of government working together, we can and will safeguard the future of the Cowichan River and the communities that depend on it.
Every Child Matters March
At the second annual Every Child Matters March on September 30th, Chief Hwitsum encouraged everyone to "be messengers, to be witnesses, and to spread a word of understanding and a word of love for all of us to find our way forward."
Here is an excerpt of her remarks.
Cowichan Tribes Welcomes Cindy Daniels as Acting Chief Administrative Officer
October 13, 2022
Today, Chief Lydia Hwitsum announced a transition in Cowichan Tribes’ senior administration. “Please join me in welcoming Cindy Daniels as Acting Chief Administrative Officer,” said Chief Hwitsum. “Cindy is a highly-qualified professional and I appreciate her stepping into this role. As many of you will recall, she previously served as our General Manager between April 2017 and September 2018. She is also a well-respected member of our Quw’utsun community and has served as a long-term Councillor and as Acting Chief for several months in 2021,” added Chief Hwitsum.
Ms. Daniels has taken leave from her role on Cowichan Tribes’ Council while serving as Acting Chief Administrative Officer. “I look forward to continuing to support our nation’s important work of providing services and programs for Quw’utsun Mustimuhw, as well as working with our staff and partners to advance the many key self-governance initiatives that we are pursuing,” said Cindy Daniels.
Si’em nu’ Khowutzun Mustimuhw,
Graduates of 2022: I would like to “Congratulate” all of our graduating students of 2022. You are setting a good example for the rest of the community. I wish you many successes in your future endeavors, this is a great milestone to start pursuing your educational and career goals set on your path. Keep shooting for the stars, our community needs you.
Aboriginal Day Celebration: I would like to thank our organizers for planning the Aboriginal Day event at the Si’em Lelum. It was nice so see our members enjoying the activities, sharing a meal together and being able to visit with one another. The pandemic has taken a toll on our community of all ages, was nice to see everyone enjoy themselves.
Celebrating Watershed Restoration Project Completion While Planning for the Future:
“Nutsamat kws yaay’us the qa’ – we come together as a whole to work together to be stronger as partners for the watershed,” explains Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “The Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers have always played an integral role in the wellbeing of Cowichan people. We need to work together with all jurisdictions to improve the rivers, protect our communities from future flooding events, and restore fish habitat.”
The Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers are at the heart of Cowichan Tribes. However, these rivers have been greatly affected by climate change as well as human impact. “This is an important opportunity to demonstrate recognition and respect for Cowichan jurisdiction and leadership,” says Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This level of investment, collaboration and shared decision making is crucial. I am thankful for the investments that have been made by all partners. We must continue this level of collaboration and recognition, as we face climate change and seek meaningful reconciliation with each other as well as our natural systems that support us.”
Respecting the important role of these rivers in our community’s history, and wanting to preserve them for the future, in 2021 Cowichan Tribes completed $3 million in watershed restoration work. This work included the removal of over 4,140 truckloads of gravel as well as significant log jams.
Have a safe and healthy summer.
Si’em nu’ Khowutzun Mustimuhw,
I would like to thank our Cowichan members who came out to the elections and voted on February 25, 2022. I will continue to be a strong voice for our community, especially our elders and youth.
I raise my hands to William Seymour (Chip) for all of his hard work and dedication to the community during his term in the office, and his council members. I would like to congratulate the new council of this term and the candidates who ran in the past election. I look forward to working with our newly elected council and Ron Minks, Chief Administrative Officer, as we work towards building a stronger, healthier community.
I am currently serving my second term on the First Nations Summit Political Executive Team which is mandated to carry out specific tasks related to Aboriginal Title and Rights negotiations with British Columbia and Canada and other issues of common concern to First Nations in British Columbia.
March 2, 2022 was the official date for Chief and Council to be sworn into office with Judge Cutler. Our Chief and Council meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. We have held two meetings and have appointed our committees and boards.