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Faces of the Treaty Empire - Translator

Artist: Andy Everson

Measurements: 8.5" x 11" 100% Cotton Rag Paper
Image Size - 7.7" x 9.7"

I belong to the K’ómoks First Nation and we are deep into the British Columbia treaty process. I truly have mixed feelings about our involvement in this. By choosing to engage in the process, we enter a world of consultants and negotiators and other strange, scary and wonderful creatures. We partake in a world of borrowing and debt; of meetings and fights. We enter without knowing whether we are journeying into the dark side or are on a path towards the light.

What I do know is that under the treaty process, our community has begun to fracture. Our very future as a people is at stake. Will treaty define who we are or will our culture do that? Will treaty lead us to form a “Treaty Empire” or a “Treaty Rebellion”?

My grandfather, like so many other First Nation’s kids, went to residential school where his language was literally beat out of him. Speak in K’omoks? He was beat. Speak in Kwakwala? He was beat. Share our ancestral stories? He was beat. Do this to enough generations and you wonder how anyone can speak our languages anymore. The fact remains that here in K’omoks, we have 0 speakers of the Pentlatch language; we have 0 speakers of the K’omoks language and we have, what, 2 speakers of the Kwakwala language? While money gets squirreled away into the pockets of the consultants, we are doing absolutely nothing to preserve our language. This is unacceptable and all of us are to blame!

Sure, we might ask an elder to act as a translator or say a prayer in Kwakwala or throw a few words into a speech to make it sound “authentic,” but we sit back and watch our language die daily. With language, goes culture; with culture, goes identity--a slippery slope that all the money in the world can never rectify.

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