By Rachael Bowser / Cultural Coordinator, Simpcw First Nation
Simpcw are the original occupants of their territory that spans from North of McLure, BC to the headwaters of the Fraser River a McBride, BC and from Jasper over to the headwaters of the Athabasca River. Simpcwemc (Simpcw people) have unique rights within their territory that they have continually sought recognition for. Despite the challenges we have faced in seeking recognition of our rights, Simpcw has always tried to maintain positive relationships with those that live within Simpcw Territory.
Conversations with our community elders and those who have settled in the North Thompson Valley confirm that we have maintained many positive relationships throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Our elders often talk about the many work opportunities that they had with local industry growth and farmer. They also often describe how well they were treated.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, when First Nations children were not allowed to attend public schools, Simpcw children attended the Chu Chua school built north of their community by George Fennell. Simpcw children would continue to attend this school for many decades. Many elders in this community will point out the old school on the Fennell property and tell their grandchildren that this is where they went to school.
These positive relationships and many others have carried forward into the present.
In 1988 Neqweyqwelsten School began hosting a Cultural Day to showcase Simpcw cultural practices and our language. This event has become an annual event where local schools are invited to participate. Every year different aspects of Simpcw culture and history are showcased alongside regular stations like the bannock station, which is naturally everyone’s favourite.
One successful relationship building activity has been the Friends on the Water canoe journeys that Simpcw goes on annually. Every summer Tina Donald who is the Fish and Wildlife Manager for Simpcw invites members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Conservation Officers, RCMP officers, and other government agencies to go on a canoe journey with Simpcw youth. The group will usually spend 2-3 days canoeing together. These journeys have led to Simpcw youth having lasting friendships with many of people from various government agencies who attend.
Simpcw is proud of the friendships we have built in the past, and even more proud of the relationships that we maintain. Not only do we create mutually beneficial working relationships, we create lifelong friendships that we hope will span generations.