By Andru McCracken

The Canim Lake Band ((Tsq’escen’) and Simpcw have occupied their territories for thousands of years, and on August 22 they renewed an agreement recognizing familial, historic and enduring bonds between the two Secwepemc communities.

The chiefs of the two communities said they have stewarded and occupied their respective territories for thousands of years.

Each community also represents a historic division within the larger Secwepemc Nation. Tsq’escen’ is part of the Styetemc or Lake Division and Simpcw is part of the North Thompson

Division. Each division has autonomous stewardship responsibilities for their part of the territory within the Secwepemc Nation. Each community occupies exclusive territory and also shares a large portion of their territory with each other, according to a joint statement from Chief Shelly Loring and Chief Helen Henderson.

The renewed agreement updates an original memorandum of understanding signed in 2013, updated to reflect changes in the legal and political landscape, including the Tsilhqot’in decision and the commitment of Canada and BC to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“There have always been strong family ties between the Simpcwemc and the Tsq’escenemc,” Simpcw Kukpi7 Chief Loring said, “we look forward to strengthening our relationship and better coordinating our resources to meet modern demands. This includes coordinating resources for major resource projects through our shared territory. Divide and conquer is no longer an option.”

“Historically, the Secwepemc held annual gatherings at Green Lake. Tsq’escen’ is proud to once again host our Secwepemc relatives here,” said Tsq’escen’ Kukpi7 (Chief) Helen Henderson.

“Together we reaffirm our commitment to strengthen our bonds, protect our rights and title, and lift up our Secwepemc Nation.”

“As we embark on this journey together, we hope our neighbours join us in acts of reconciliation no matter how big or small. But we have to start,” the Kukpi7s echoed.

Both communities are made up of people forcibly removed from Tete Jaune Cache in 1916.