Press Releases

Members of the media may contact public relations

5760 Allenby Road
Duncan, BC   V9L 5J1

Ph:  (236) 800-7070
Email: Public.Relations[@]


New Report Highlights Devastating Impact of Log Boom Operations in Cowichan Estuary

June 11, 2024

Cowichan Tribes, BC Conservation Foundation, and Pacific Salmon Foundation year six study results demonstrate need for more to be done to save salmon populations.

DUNCAN, BC - Today, Cowichan Tribes, in collaboration with the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) and the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF), released a Year Six Report, outlining the detrimental impacts of log boom storage on wild Pacific salmon populations in the Cowichan-Koksilah Estuary. The report, part of a joint eight-year study, emphasizes the need for best practices to be implemented to support the survival and recovery of Chinook salmon and estuary ecosystems.

More than 100 years of log boom handling operations in the Cowichan-Koksilah Estuary have littered the sea bed with anoxic zones of cut logs, bark, and sticks, causing widespread damage to salmon dependent eelgrass beds and forage fish populations. This multi-year study clearly indicates that the booms’ current positioning in crucial salmon migration corridors facilitates seal predation, which is one of the key factors in the correlation between declining Pacific salmon populations and burgeoning harbour seal density.

"Stseelhtun (salmon) are an integral part of our spiritual and cultural identity and they have been hit hard by the loss of marsh habitat, climate change, logging, and log boom operations in our territory," said Cowichan Tribes Chief Cindy Daniels (Sulsulxumaat). "I commend our Luxumexun (Lands and Self Governance) department, BC Conservation Foundation and Pacific Salmon Foundation for their long-term commitment to this study which has delivered concrete data demonstrating the level of crisis our relatives, the salmon, are experiencing. With these results, we look forward to working with government, industry, and partners to take actions to reverse these impacts before it is too late," added Daniels.

Results from the study indicate that the presence of log booms has a statistically significant negative impact on adult Chinook terminal survival. The mechanism is altering predator-prey dynamics between harbour seals and salmon by enhancing predation efficiency. Further, this impact is exacerbated by low flows, preventing adult Chinook from migrating into the river and away from predation pressures in the lower river and estuary. As climate impacts become more severe, the negative impacts of log booms in key migration corridors and low river flows will increase.

Based on the study results, BCCF has developed a series of best management practices specific to the Cowichan-Koksilah Estuary designed to limit, restrict, and offset damage to fish and fish habitat. Such listed strategies include: situating the booms in deeper water where ocean-going ships already anchor and onshore log limbing and cleaning practices.

“Indigenous knowledge and Western science both indicate that the current log booming operations in the Cowichan-Koksilah Estuary are degrading the estuarine environment physically, chemically, biologically, and ecologically,” said Jamieson Atkinson, Program Manager, Aquatic Research and Restoration Centre, BC Conservation Foundation. “With climate forecasts calling for increasing drought periods, this study’s findings highlight the urgent need for effective management strategies to ensure the survival and recovery of wild Pacific salmon stocks.”

“Pacific salmon need us to take actions within our control to support their recovery. This study, led by Cowichan Tribes and BC Conservation Foundation, presents us with a clear path forward to collaborate with industry and crown government to update log boom storage practices. The recommendations set out in this report will have immediate and long-term benefits for recovery and resilience of Pacific salmon who depend on healthy estuaries during their migration,” says Michael Meneer, President and CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Additional Information:
- Year 6 Report: Understanding the impact of Anthropogenic and Environmental Conditions onAdult Chinook Salmon
- Technical Backgrounder

Lyackson First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, B.C. reach milestone agreement

May 11, 2024

LAKE COWICHAN - Lyackson First Nation, Cowichan Tribes and the Province are celebrating a key reconciliation milestone that will enable the return of culturally signifciant land in the Cowichan River valley to two member communities of the Quw'utsun Nation.

Chief Pahalicktun (Richard Thomas), Lyackson First Nation; Chief Cindy Daniels (Sulsulxumaat), Cowichan Tribes; Premier David Eby; and Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, were joined by community members near Skutz Falls for a ceremony to sign an Incremental Treaty Agreement (ITA).

Under the agreement, B.C. will transfer a parcel of recently purchased private land to Lyackson First Nation and Cowichan Tribes. As part of the ITA, Lyackson First Nation and Cowichan Tribes have entered into an inter-community memorandum of understanding that holds the lands in partnership until a plan is put in place to divide the lands into equal, separate parcels.

"This day would not be possible without the support of our relatives at Cowichan Tribes," said Chief Pahalicktun. "This collaboration is a living expression of our Snuw'uy'ulth. I want to acknowledge Minister Rankin and Premier Eby for honouring their commitment to the Leeyq'sun Mustimuhw with the signing of this agreement. This is a historic day for our community, one we've been advocating for and working toward for multiple generations. It is the first step in bringing the Leeyq'sun Mustimuhw back together in a village, which will strengthen our community, our culture and our economy for today and for future generations."

Prior to colonization, Lyackson had a winter village at the mouth of the Cowichan River, and for generations, their members have been advocating for a community base on Vancouver Island.
Lyackson's reserve lands are currently located solely on Valdes Island, an island lacking ferry service, water supply, electricity, and other infrastructure and services needed to support a community. The agreement and land transfer are a historic step to address Lyackson's longstanding need for a place to live, gather, access services and lay community members to rest.

Lyackson First Nation and Cowichan Tribes will seek to add the land to their respective reserves through the federal Addition to Reserve after the land transfer takes place and objectives of the inter-community memorandum of understanding have been achieved. This reserve creation for Lyackson First Nation has long been supported by Cowichan Tribes, guided by the shared teachings of nuts'a'maat shqwaluwun (working together with one mind, one heart, one spirit) and ts'ets'uw-wutul (helping one another).

"With the signing of this Interim Treaty Agreement, these unceded lands, which feature prominently in our oral history and hold great meaning for our families, are being returned to Quw'utsun," said Chief Cindy Daniels. "I recognize the Province of B.C. for working with us to make this possible. Cowichan Tribes is pleased to support our Lyackson relatives in accordance with our Snuw'uy'ulh (teachings) and divide these lands in a good and equitable way. Together, we are advancing a collaborative approach to addressing the urgent need for land for our citizens."

Premier Eby said: "Everyone, and every community, needs a place to call home. This historic agreement creates a long-awaited home base for the Lyackson First Nation, while also supporting the Cowichan Tribes' housing and community development priorities. None of this would be possible without the leadership of Lyackson Chief Pahalicktun, who has worked tirelessly for the past three decades to secure a strong future for his community, leaving a legacy for generations to come."

The lands are near an existing Cowichan Tribes Indian Reserve known as Skutz Falls IR8, a small area of land adjacent to the Skutz Falls Provincial Park that is used for fishing and other harvesting and gathering purposes. For Cowichan Tribes, the upper regions of the Cowichan River and Lake Cowichan are of significant importance.

Quick Facts:

New Cowichan Tribes Facility for Youth & Adult Learners Complete: Includes Totem Carved by Students

May 1, 2024

Today, Cowichan Tribes is celebrating the grand opening of a replacement facility for youth and adult learners. Youth, ages 12-17, participating in the Quw’utsun Hu-yi’xwule’ Skwoulew’t-tw’ (QHS) Middle School and adults from the Yuthuy'thut Adult Training (YTT) program now enjoy a bright and modern facility. In Hul’q’umi’num’, Quw’utsun Hu-yi’xwule’ means “Cowichan Young Eagles” and Yuthuy’thut means “preparing one’s self.” “Education is a top priority for Cowichan Tribes. We are moving forward with returning full jurisdiction over education to our nation. This new facility and totem are another step in advancing a positive educational legacy for our people, where cultural and academic skills are integrated into the curriculum,” said Chief Cindy Daniels.

The new building is comprised of six modular units constructed by Nexus Modular and combined to form a single building with three large classrooms, a student kitchen with eating space, larger student washrooms, and an enhanced front entry with a seating area for guests, staff offices and a staff room. Additional contractors included: Porlier Pass Construction, RB Engineering, and Chatwin Engineering.  The project was designed to accommodate a second floor and included water main and BC Hydro service upgrades. “The previous building had outlived its lifespan. This is a forward thinking project, with room to grow as our enrollment increases,” said Roxanne Harris, Executive Director of Quw'utsun Syuw’entst Lelum' Culture and Education Centre. “Huy tseep q’u to the Cowichan Tribes Capital Projects team for managing the construction of this wonderful new facility for us. We are excited about the growth that will follow the passing of our Education Law and setting up our Education Authority,” added Harris. “The move into the new building means a fresh start.  It has given us the opportunity to improve our school environment in many ways.  It also gives our students a sense of pride and belonging,” said resource room teacher Joyce Rodriguez.

In addition to celebrating the new facility, staff, students, and guests also witnessed the installation of a totem carved by the students. As a result of a successful grant application for a Modular Course Grant through the First Nations Schools Association, YTT was able to create a course that the school would not usually offer.  The course to create the totem pole was based on the woodwork curriculum.  Cowichan Carver and Youth Inclusion Project Outreach Worker with Hiiye’yu Lelum House of Friendship, Kevin Paige, agreed to work with the students and space was found at the carving shed at the Quw’utsun Cultural Centre. The totem project took nearly one year to complete.

“I was honoured to be invited to work with the students from QHS and YTT to introduce them to carving and woodworking. I raise my hands to the students and staff for their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn all the steps and skills involved in a project of this size. The result is a beautiful totem representing the Quw’utsun story of Qul-lhanumutsun and S-hwu-hwa'us (killer whale and the thunderbird) that they should be very proud of and that the entire community can enjoy,” said Kevin Paige.  “Through the process of carving this totem, I gained a greater connection to my culture and confidence in my ability to learn new skills.  It is my hope that this course can continue to be offered so more students will able to participate,” added YTT student Saleisha Pelkey-Thorne.

Statement from Chief Cindy Daniels on the Hit and Run Death of a Cowichan Citizen

April 24, 2024

“As Chief of Cowichan Tribes, I extend my deepest condolences to the Joe family on this tragic loss of a beloved member of their family. 

Our youth are our future, and they deserve every opportunity to achieve their dreams. Cowichan Tribes is here to support the victim’s family and friends as they mourn the loss of this young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.

I join with the family and the RCMP in appealing to the driver and anyone with information to come forward.  Losing a Cowichan Citizen due to a hit and run leaves many unanswered questions. 

Unfortunately, this incident speaks to the challenges pedestrians face in our region and there is much work to do to ensure safer pedestrian options.”

-          Chief Cindy Daniels

Statement on the Passing of Squtxulenuhw William “Chip” Seymour

February 13, 2024

Cowichan citizens are mourning the passing of Squtxulenuhw William “Chip” Seymour. Squtxulenuhw served four terms as Chief (2013-2022) and four terms as a councillor (2006-2013). During his time as Chief, his priorities centered around  education, employment, training, culture, housing, and working to re-establish a sense of hope among young people. Prior to 2013, he served Cowichan Tribes as Operations and Maintenance Manager. Generations of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw also benefited from his many decades of coaching the Cowichan Eagles soccer team, training coaches, and travelling to international competitions. He was 72.

Squtxulenuhw lived the Quw’utsun snuw’uy’ ulh (teachings) through his leadership, his service to the community, and his generosity of spirit. He was an advocate and steady voice for our people during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing people together in the face of racism, implementing necessary shelter in place restrictions to protect Elders, and supporting partnerships to provide temporary shelter at the Mound for our most vulnerable citizens.

“Chip was a beloved member of our community,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “He championed our Quw’utsun Tumuhw, or Land Code, so that we could have control over our lands. It was an important self-governance initiative that was passed in 2019. Our community has lost a valuable contributor, someone who was deeply committed to defending Cowichan Tribes’ rights and title, lifting up and sharing our culture, and improving opportunities for our people. On behalf of our Council, I extend our condolences to Chip’s family and all Quw’utsun Mustimuhw as we mourn this loss,” added Hwitsum.


Cowichan Tribes Votes Yes to Law Reclaiming Jurisdiction Over Child and Family Services

For Immediate Release: November 27, 2023

Duncan, B.C. (Quw’utsun Territory) – Cowichan Tribes citizens have voted in favour of the Snuw’uy’ulhtst tu Quw’utsun Mustimuhw u’ tu Shhw’a’luqwa’a’ i’ Smun’eem (Laws of the Cowichan People for Families and Children). Votes were cast both electronically between November 10-24 and in person on November 24, with 83 per cent of Cowichan citizens voting yes and 17 per cent of votes opposed. This successful vote means full jurisdiction over Child and Family Services will return to our nation. Implementation will begin in 2024, with a phased-in approach over the course of two years.

“Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan People) have overwhelmingly voted in support of our Law and our inherent right to govern our children and families guided by our snuw’uy’ulh, our cultural teachings, and with respect for our family customs,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Generations of our children have experienced the trauma of removal from their families and communities and loss of language and culture through residential schools, the 60’s Scoop, and the colonial child welfare system. This historic vote sets our smun’eem (children) and future generations on a new path, one that ensures they are surrounded by their families, their Quw’utsun culture, tl’l’tul tst (love), and supports,” added Hwitsum.

“The passing of our Law empowers us to fully implement our Cowichan ways of caring for our children and families,” said Addie Price, Acting Director of Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem, Child and Family Services. While Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem gained delegated authority over child and family wellness in 1996, some cases involving Cowichan children and youth continued to be managed in the Provincial system, and Cowichan social workers were required to follow provincial legislation and regulations. “There are a lot of preparations needed, but we can’t wait to begin the transition to our Law and its holistic approach to family well-being and proactive supports to prevent situations requiring late stage intervention, ” added Price. Basic support services will be available to all Cowichan Tribes families to strengthen family relationships, parenting and life skills, health care, language and culture. Additional support services will be offered to families facing challenges such as poverty, inadequate housing, substance misuse, or mental health issues. Other support services may include domestic violence programs, services for smun’eem with special needs, mediation, in-home support, respite care, and more.

The next steps will include the creation of a Child and Family Services Authority: Stsi’elh stuhw’ew’t-hw tun Smun’eem (Honouring Our Sacred Children and Families) with a Board of Directors of five to nine directors. “The Board will appoint a CEO for the management of the Authority and implementation of our Law,” said treaty negotiator and legal counsel Robert Morales. “Cowichan Tribes Council will have responsibilities to support the Authority and make regulations and ensure it is functioning properly, but will not be involved in day-to-day operations or case decisions,” added Morales. Staff levels are expected to grow to nearly double that of the current Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem. Many of the new staff will concentrate on prevention and family support services.

In October 2020, following the passage of Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families, Cowichan Tribes formally notified the federal and provincial governments of its intent to exercise jurisdiction and develop its own Law. “Cowichan Tribes was among the inital 11 First Nations across Canada that began this process. With this successful vote, we will continue to be among the earliest nations to both enter into a Coordination Agreement with the Federal Government and have our Law come into effect. As each nation’s jurisdiction journey is different, the time frames are not sequential,” said Stephanie Atleo, Director of Governance for Cowichan Tribes. “The initial service delivery area will include Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and we will expand nation-wide as we build our capacity,” added Atleo.

Link to full press release.

Cowichan Tribes Voting On Law to Reclaim Jurisdiction Over Child and Family Services

For Immediate Release: November 8, 2023

 Duncan, B.C. (Quw’utsun Territory) – Canada’s child welfare system has long discriminated against our children and youth. But this month, Cowichan Tribes citizens are voting on a Law that would reclaim full authority over Child and Family Services.

"We are at a defining moment in our history, with the opportunity at our fingertips to chart a happy, healthy, and culturally-rich future for our smun’eem, our children,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Voting yes to ratify our child law means keeping our families together and caring for our children in a way that reflects our snuw’uy’ulh (our teachings) and our ways of being, by using a lens of compassion and tl’l’tul tst (love),” added Hwitsum.

In October 2020, following the passage of Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, youth and families, Cowichan Tribes formally notified the federal and provincial governments of its intent to exercise jurisdiction and develop its own Law. What followed was three years of intense community engagement and collaboration with Elders and citizens to create the Snuw’uy’ulhtst tu Quw’utsun Mustimuhw u’ tu Shhw’a’luqwa’a’ i’ Smun’eem (Laws of the Cowichan People for Families and Children).

Nine cultural principles were identified to guide Child and Family Services and are embedded in the Law.  The Law also acknowledges the historical harm caused by colonization and residential schools and that Quw’utsun Mustumuhw (Cowichan People) are best suited to address this harm. It prioritizes collaborative decision-making that safeguards the child’s best interests, with a focus on identity, culture, language, and connections to family and the land.

Treaty negotiator and legal counsel Robert Morales explained: “The emphasis is to move away from children being removed from their family and being removed from our community; this law is going to make it very difficult to do that.” The Law mandates prevention and support for people in need with a holistic, family-centered approach, ensuring that poverty and inadequate housing are never grounds for removing children and separating families.

“Voting yes is a vote for our children. This Law has been created by our community for our community.  With a successful vote, Quw’utsun Mustimuhw, our people, will feel a major difference as we implement our Cowichan way of caring for our children and familes,” said Addie Price, Acting Director of Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem, Child and Family Services.

Cowichan Tribes citizens can vote online starting November 10; in-person voting takes place on November 24, 2023, at Si’em Lelum gymnasium. Information sessions for our citizens are scheduled on November 10, 16, and 23 (5 pm -7 pm) at Si'em Lelum Dining Hall. Transportation is available by calling (250) 746-1002. Cowichan Tribes citizens can learn more about the Law and register for online voting here:

Cowichan Tribes is a leading nation in self-governance. For example, this past September, the ratification vote was passed for the Cowichan Tribes Custom Election Law, which implements our own way of selecting our leadership table. “There is no manual for how to return to our authority over our people and lands,” said Stephanie Atleo, Cowichan Tribes’ new Director of Governance. “We pursue this work to break the cycles of trauma so many of us have experienced under the Indian Act and colonial governments. We are guided by our culture and our Elders to ensure a better future for our people, with thriving families and culture,” added Atleo.

Link to full press release.

Cowichan Tribes Reiterates Call for Higher Cowichan Weir Following Fish Die Off in Cowichan River

For Immediate Release: July 14, 2023


Duncan, B.C. (Quw’utsun Territory) - Cowichan Tribes, along with a number of other agencies, received a report from a concerned Duncan resident this week of a fish die off of juvenile salmonids in the Horseshoe Bend area of the Cowichan River.

Cowichan Tribes fisheries staff visited the site and noted several dozen deceased juvenile salmonids. The loss of any number of fish is very concerning.  Lower river flows and higher water temperatures can increase the stress on fish, making it more difficult for them to withstand other pressures. While the cause of this incident has not yet been confirmed, Cowichan Tribes staff are working in concert with Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Cowichan Watershed Board, Catalyst Crofton, and others to conduct further environmental testing and data collection to determine the extent of the impact and what factors contributed to the death of these fish. 

“On June 9, 2023, I sent a letter to BC Minister of Forests, Hon. Bruce Ralston, and Hon. Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship regarding extremely low water levels in the Cowichan River jeopardizing the survival of wild salmon fry,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “We also reiterated our call for the Province to come to the table to support a new, higher Cowichan Weir so that the river and salmon do not face these dire circumstances in the future,” added Hwitsum.

The acute need for replacement of the weir at Lake Cowichan has never been more evident as this year. This incident reinforces the concerns for the Cowichan River that been expressed for more than a decade. Leaders in the region have been working collaboratively and diligently to gain the necessary financial support to replace the weir, and it is now fully designed and engineered. 

“Support is urgently needed from the Province of B.C. to match federal dollars. The environmental, social, and cultural importance of the Cowichan River is too important to delay any longer,” said Chief Hwitsum.

Link to full press release.

Call to Action on Community Safety

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2023

Duncan, B.C., Quw’utsun Territory – Cowichan Tribes Chief and Council are sending their love and condolences to the family of a 15-year-old youth with ties to Cowichan who passed away last week. Our prayers are with her family as they lay their loved one to rest.

Cowichan Tribes departments have been actively providing supports to community members. “The safety and wellbeing of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people) and vulnerable populations in our region is a top priority for me and our entire Council,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Too many of our community members have experienced the unspeakable loss of a family member at a young age. We need to work together community-wide to combat crime and demand safety by reporting any and all suspicious activities to the RCMP,” added Hwitsum.

Cowichan Tribes has been in contact with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP regarding this tragedy. We are appealing to witnesses or anyone with information regarding the circumstances leading to this young woman's death to support the investigation. Please call the RCMP detachment at (250) 748-5522 or report online here: "We are asking our entire community to come together to support justice for this family," said Chief Hwitsum. "Active reporting is an important way our citizens can help law enforcement in the work they are doing," stated Hwitsum. "We are grateful to those who have come forward to provide information to advance this investigation thus far," said Inspector Chris Bear, Officer in Charge of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.

Cowichan Tribes takes issues impacting the safety of our citizens very seriously. On May 5th, we co-hosted a walk in partnership with Tsow Tun Le Lum Society in honour of the National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls that was attended by hundreds of supporters. This issue affects First Nations across the country and earlier this month a motion was passed unanimously in the House of Commons calling the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women a national emergency and stating funding is needed for an alert system. 

Cowichan Tribes representatives meet regularly with members from our local RCMP Detachment regarding community safety. On June 29th, for the second time this year, RCMP and Cowichan Tribes will host a Town Hall meeting at the Si’em Lelum Dining Hall at 6:00 pm.  

Link to full press release.

Link to personal safety recommendations

Link to key safety and reporting contacts

Link to crisis lines and supports

Link to addiction resources

Cowichan Tribes & Province Sign Historic Agreement Marking the launch of Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed Planning

Ist' hwialasmut tu Xwulqw'selu Sta'lo' – We are taking care of the Koksilah River.

May 12, 2023

Duncan, B.C., Quw’utsun territory – Cowichan Tribes First Nation and the Province of British Columbia are celebrating the signing of a precedent-setting Agreement (S-xats-thut tst). The Xwulqw'selu Watershed Planning Agreement builds on three years of government-to-government work by Cowichan Tribes and the Province.

Today’s signing marks the launch of the next phase: a comprehensive process to develop a long-term plan for the Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed, located within the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) watershed on eastern Vancouver Island. This will be the province’s first Water Sustainability Plan developed under the Water Sustainability Act, and will address the ‘whole of watershed’ needs – those of the flora, fauna, land, and the communities that depend on the watershed – in the development of long-term water solutions.

Cowichan Tribes and the Province agree to jointly lead the planning process and approach decisions as equal authorities with distinct legal traditions and responsibilities. The Agreement is informed by 11 Quw’utsun snuw'uy'ulh (teachings) and ensures that local Indigenous values guide the process and provide a foundation for an enduring and respectful co-governance relationship. For example, Nutsamat kws yaay’us tth qa’ – We come together as a whole to work together to be stronger as partners for the watershed.

The Xwulqw’selu Watershed features prominently in Quw’utsun origin stories and is central to the culture and identity of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people). It supports multiple species of fish, vital ecosystems, Indigenous and local food security, and sustains the diverse livelihoods of residents and businesses. In recent years, the Watershed has experienced serious climate related challenge, including extreme low flows in the summer and flooding in the winter.

“The Xwulqw'selu watershed is under pressure and we know the current path is not sustainable - for fish, for the ecosystem, or for people. We need to come together to develop a plan that protects the watershed's health and sustains Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Valley communities for generations to come,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This plan is the first of its kind and signals a commitment to work together in an enduring partnership based on respect and recognition of Cowichan Tribes’ inherent authority and our teachings,” added Hwitsum.

“Healthy watersheds are at the heart of all social, environmental, and economic systems supporting 
B.C. The Province and Cowichan Tribes share a responsibility to protect the Xwulqw'selu Watershed,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “Through this landmark agreement, we will continue to work together to make shared decisions on the watershed and ensure it is sustainably managed now, and into the future.”

Cowichan Tribes and the Province are committed to early, transparent, and ongoing engagement with Cowichan Tribes citizens, local residents, and the wider community, as well as water and land users - starting in the coming months. They look forward to working together to share knowledge, undertake research, and propose solutions for a sustainable future for the Xwulqw’selu Watershed and the people, animals, and plants that depend on it.

Additional Quotes

Hon. Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food
“Protecting the Xwulqw’selu Watershed is vital to Indigenous and local food security now and for future generations. It is also important that we support local farmers and strengthen the community’s agricultural economy. By working in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes, we will chart a path that leads to sustainable water use and a resilient food supply, as well as the protection and restoration of fish populations and local ecosystems that rely on the watershed.”

Hon. Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests
“This historic agreement will lead the way for building a long-term plan for the Xwulqw’selu (Koksilah) Watershed in full partnership of the Cowichan Tribes who are the traditional stewards of this land, and whose knowledge will inform and guide the process. Agreements like this one are an important step to realizing our commitments under the Declaration Act and vision for inclusive and sustainable natural resource stewardship with First Nations as full partners."

Click here for the full news release and backgrounder.

Learn More:

Xwulqw'selu Watershed Planning Agreement:

Initiative website:

Cowichan Tribes Marks New 32-Unit Modular Housing Project Completion With Pre-Occupancy Tours

Statement for Release: March 22, 2023

Duncan, B.C. – Today, Cowichan Tribes hosted pre-occupancy tours of the newly completed 32-unit Modular Housing Project for dignitaries, project partners, and staff. The buildings have recently undergone final inspection and received occupancy permits. Tenants are expected to move in at the beginning of April. 

This new affordable rental housing infrastructure is funded by Cowichan Tribes in excess of $4.3 million in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), who provided a grant of $4 million. There are three buildings, with a range of units including studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms. Building A has 16 units; Building B has 10 units; and Building C houses six units. The buildings are constructed following Step Four of the BC Building Step Code to ensure energy efficiency and keep heating costs down for residents. 

“This project is the largest build Cowichan Tribes has ever undertaken,” said Acting Chief Administrative Officer, Cindy Daniels. “I lift my hands up to the staff from our Capital Projects, Sustainable Housing, and Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem (Children & Families) Departments for the thoughtfulness and collaboration that went into this project. Their work not only added to the much needed on-reserve housing stock for families, Elders and young people, but they also had the foresight to build in community amenities, including a teaching and multi-purpose space with a kitchen, as well as a playground, sport court, and public washroom facilities with a water fountain.”

Opening nearly one year later than initially planned, the project was delayed by labour shortages and global supply chain issues in several areas including concrete, hand railings, and hydro meters. “We want to thank our community for their continued patience and support in the completion of this project,” said Gina Warburton, Acting Director of Capital Projects and Acting Associate Director of Housing. “Getting to this stage has been a labour of love and we are looking forward Cowichan Tribes to seeing the smiles on our new tenants’ faces when they move in over the next few days and weeks.” 

Sixteen units will be used for housing department rentals and 16 one-bedroom units for Lalum'utul' Smun'eem to support young moms and youth as they age out of care. They will have access to life skills and supports through onsite connections and programming. “Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem is so pleased to see these units and facilities completed. We will have common areas to host workshops and other activities to help build community amongst the youth, young moms, and Elders,” said Addie Price, Acting Director, Lalum’utul’ Smuneem. 

Cowichan Tribes also recognizes Tire Stewardship BC for providing a $14,400 grant towards a rubberized surface for the accessible, nature-themed playground. A separate rubberized surface for the multi-use sport court will be installed once the temperatures are warm enough. Cowichan Tribes will host a community-wide celebration in the late spring, once this surfacing work is complete and tenants have settled in to their new homes.

KDC Sub-Contract for Trucking Work on Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project

Statement for Release: February 27, 2023

Duncan, B.C. - Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) has negotiated a sub-contract with one of the contractors on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project to provide trucking services for a three-month period, with a possible extension.  As required, this sub-contract was submitted to BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) for approval and a positive response has been received. 

“This is a step in the right direction towards economic reconciliation and acknowledges that systems excluding Indigenous participation are no longer acceptable,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “The Cowichan District Hospital Replacement is one of the largest projects to be undertaken in our territory and Cowichan businesses have the capacity to contribute to its success. We look forward to a more inclusive process going forward.”

“When we suggested this approach in October, it was ignored, and then rejected.  These months of negotiations could have been months where our skilled employees were working on this project had our initial proposal been accepted,” said Jodee Dick, KDC CEO. “Our truck drivers are looking forward to being on the Cowichan District Hospital construction site later this week to start this short-term sub-contract.  We are also working hard to secure some civil and earth works,” added Ms. Dick.

Read the full statement here.

Clarity Needed Regarding KDC Work on Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project

Statement for Release: February 10, 2023

Duncan, B.C. – Initial discussions regarding the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project between Cowichan Tribes’ economic development arm and Island Health began in August 2021. Yet Cowichan Tribes was excluded from the negotiations of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that governs this major infrastructure project located within Cowichan traditional territory. Consequently, the CBA excludes consideration of Cowichan economic interests.

While Island Health and BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) cite Indigenous participation on the project, the system in place limits participation for First Nations citizen-owned companies looking to sub-contract scope of work for the various phases, such as: trucking, earthworks, and civil, unless they agree to unionize and have their employees join BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB).  At this stage of the project, all scope of work has been contracted out to various contractors, through signed agreements with the primary contractor.   

“We expect that comments made by Health Minister Adrian Dix in the BC Legislature on February 8th are a commitment to ensure greater inclusivity for our businesses on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum.  “However, we have not yet received formal notification from any parties involved of any changes. In the meantime, our companies and their workers are sitting on the sidelines watching the clock run out on any meaningful participation on this $1.45 billion project,” continued Hwitsum.

"We proposed a solution within the Community Benefits Agreement to get Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) and our citizen-owned companies working on site in October 2022. That same proposal is still in discussion four months later,” said KDC CEO, Jodee Dick. “The latest correspondence from Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) requires KDC to try to negotiate sub-contracts at substandard rates far below our current Island rates.  The next step is to forward those contracts for approval by AIRCC.  We have not received a green light,” added Ms. Dick.

The new Cowichan District Hospital is an important project for all residents in the Cowichan Valley. It is also an opportunity for the province to build relationships and advance economic reconciliation with our community, the largest First Nation in B.C. by population. Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation remain committed to working with partners to secure employment and contract opportunities for both Cowichan citizens and companies on this project.

Read the full statement here

Time is Running out for a KDC Work Permit on the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project

January 19, 2023

Duncan, B.C. – Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) have been advocating for many months to secure economic opportunities for Cowichan citizen-owned companies as part of the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project. This project, located within Cowichan traditional territory, is valued at $1.45 billion and represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in our region.

Cowichan Tribes was excluded from the negotiations of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that governs this project. There was also no mechanism for Cowichan Tribes to negotiate an Interim Benefit Agreement that would have secured a scope of work for our nation's economic development arm (KDC) and our Cowichan citizen-owned civil and construction companies. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes the right to economic reconciliation. However, the existing CBA excludes consideration of Cowichan economic interests and Khowutzun Development Corporation’s initial work permit request was rejected.

“It is unacceptable that the traditional peoples of this land should be excluded and deliberately prevented from playing a role in the building of vital community infrastructure,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This amounts to a rejection of our Rights and Title within our territory. It is hard to believe in today’s environment of Truth and Reconciliation that we would find ourselves in this situation,” added Hwitsum.

Chief Lydia Hwitsum and KDC CEO, Jodee Dick, met this week with BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC) to try to find a solution and remove the barriers preventing KDC and Cowichan companies from participating on this project.  “We have submitted another work permit proposal, which is now under review,” said Jodee Dick, CEO, Khowutzun Development Corporation. “We hope to receive approval in the near future, as the scope of work that can be performed by our citizen-owned companies continues to dwindle each week,” added Ms. Dick.

Read the full statement here


Work Stoppage at New Cowichan District Hospital Construction Site

December 2, 2022

Duncan, B.C.

Cowichan Tribes is aware that a Cowichan citizen has locked the gate at the construction site of the New Cowichan District Hospital in protest of the BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) process.

Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation (KDC) have been meeting for several months and with increased frequency in recent weeks, with representatives from Island Health, Ministry of Health, BCIB, and the general contractor, Ellis Don. These meetings explored economic opportunities for Cowichan citizen owned civil and trucking companies and mechanisms to work outside the BCIB process. “Commitments were made to find ways to address hurdles and be more inclusive of Cowichan Tribes on a major infrastructure project taking place in our territory. These discussions have not resulted in any actions to meet these commitments,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “The clock is ticking as these economic opportunities pass by our citizens’ companies and work is performed by contractors from outside our region,” added Hwitsum.

“Khowutzun Development Corporation has been seeking opportunities for our citizens and citizen owned businesses to perform work on the construction of the new Cowichan District Hospital,” said Jodee Dick, Chief Executive Officer of KDC. “We have been working to create positive relationships with other contractors and trade unions, and they have been supportive of getting our citizens working on this project” Ms. Dick continued.

The new Cowichan District Hospital is an important project for all residents in the Cowichan Valley. It is also an opportunity for the province to build relationships and advance economic reconciliation with our community, the largest First Nation in B.C. by population. Cowichan Tribes and Khowutzun Development Corporation remain committed to working with partners to secure employment and contract opportunities for Cowichan citizens on this project.

Read the full statement here.

Cowichan Tribes Offices Closed on National Day of Mourning

September 14, 2022

Duncan, B.C. 

The Government of Canada has announced a National Day of Mourning to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Please be advised that Cowichan Tribes Offices will be closed on Monday, September 19, 2022.

What this day represents for people across the country will be shaped by their historical experience, knowledge and understanding of how Canada came to be a nation at great cost to the original inhabitants of these lands. For the Canadian Government, this is a day of mourning. For the Quw'utsun Mustimuhw, this day is a time for sombre reflection on the impact the monarchy has had on our people. “Our cultural snuw'uy'ulh (teachings) are to recognize and respect those who have passed on and I extend my condolences,” stated Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “At the same time, we cannot overlook that during the late Queen's reign, the colonial model was exercised intensely on our people and around the globe," continued Hwitsum. “The resulting harms and intergenerational trauma have ongoing impacts in our community.”

Salish Bear Totem by Stan Modeste Reinstalled at Malahat Summit

September 29, 2022

Duncan, B.C.

On September 29, 2022, a private cultural ceremony was held to reinstall the Stan Modeste Totem, Salish Bear, to its rightful place at the Malahat Summit. Hosted by the Modeste family, representatives of the Cowichan Tribes, Malahat, Halalt, Lyackson, Stz'uminus, and Penelakut First Nations, City of Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District were invited to bear witness to this important milestone ahead of Orange Shirt Day and National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th

“Historic injustices and ongoing racist attacks weigh heavily on our community,” stated Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “Quw’utsun people are taught by our Elders to help one another and work together for the good of all. It has been greatly appreciated to see and experience the support of the larger community for the repair and reinstallation of Stan Modeste’s Salish Bear Totem,” continued Chief Hwitsum.

Read the full press release here.

Cowichan Tribes Approves Changes to Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, Citizenship Code

July 5, 2022

Duncan, B.C.

In its recent Ratification Vote conducted in person, electronically, and by mail, Cowichan Tribes members passed changes to the Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, or Citizenship Code, with 79% of votes cast supporting the amendments.

“The revised Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw makes it easier for people to understand who can apply for Cowichan Tribes membership,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This vote and these changes are an important milestone for our community, as the last amendments were made on June 28, 1992. We know a lot has changed in 30 years and we wanted to ensure our Citizenship Code reflected these changes.”

Read the full press release here.

Celebrating Watershed Restoration Project Completion While Planning for the Future

June 3, 2022

Duncan, B.C.

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.”

Read the full press release here.