Health authority continues to take shape

Ha-Shilth-Sa, August 25, 2011
Port Alberni — 

The Tlu-piich Games continue to grow, and we were pleased with another successful event held Aug. 3 to 7. Our vision for the games is to have all Nuu-chah-nulth-aht come together annually to enjoy visitation, competition and a celebration of who we are as a people. This includes all Nuu-chah-nulth and Makah, plus any other First Nation who wishes to join our days of celebration and competition.

Some of the main competition this year included track and field for all ages, swimming, fast pitch, slo-pitch, and fun lahal games. Along with all that fun, came the opportunity to visit with family, relatives and friends who we don’t get to see very often in our busy changing world.

I participated in a trip to Sacramento, California, on July 17 to 20, along with a small group of First Nation Health Council (FNHC)and staff members. We attended a meeting which occurs once every two years between the California Rural Indian Health Board and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. Between these two boards, they manage around 90 US Tribes and their Health Services. These two organizations have been operating for over 20 years, as this was their 11th get together.

The trip mainly confirmed that the direction we are taking here in B.C. is a correct one. Only, now we are at the stage where our US counter parts were over 20 years ago. I found that they have the same challenges as we do: funding, government consultation or the lack of it. The benefits they enjoy include: Tribal control; they co-operate with each other and support one another; they successfully lobbied for legislation to support their endeavors in their Health management for their members.

On Aug. 9 to 11, the FNHC engaged in a strategic planning session focused on our next steps toward building our control and independence in the management of First Nation Health. Please pay attention to our fall activities pertaining to Health, as we will be engaging with as many of our members at home and away on the necessary direction which will be needed to begin the building of our own Health Authority.

Also, our workers will be engaging all of our communities on follow-up sessions on the building up of our community Health Plans. This is exciting and our success will be measured in the number of Nuu-chah-nulth members who are able to participate and take ownership of what will be truly ours – our very own First Nation Health Plan for B.C. Stay tuned everyone.

T’aaq-wiihak Fisheries still requires action on the part of DFO. We still have not got our members out fishing yet. Unfortunately, we are bound by the direction provided in the Supreme Court of BC decision to work with DFO on implementing our Aboriginal Right to Commercially Harvest sea resources.

Prior to engaging the courts, we could have just asserted our title and rights to commercially harvest sea resources, much like Tseshaht and Hupacasath. However, since our decision to sue the Federal Government on our rights, we begin to have our hands tied to the direction of the court system, so we have to work with DFO, whether we like it or not.

Other bad news includes Canada’s decision to apply to the Supreme Court of Canada to have our case heard before the highest court of the land. This is an ill-conceived decision on the part of Canada. Canadian taxpayers should be outraged at this action because of a waste of taxpayer resources put toward fighting against First Nations’ right to make a livelihood from the ocean.

It was the Federal Government that recognized small parcels of our lands as reservations, because of our dependence on the sea resources. When we fished, our communities were self-sustaining, strong and independent. Without the access, the evidence of the impact is to be seen in each of our communities. This includes low employment numbers, poor health, and dependency on others for our meager sustenance. All of this evidence is unacceptable to us, but acceptable to the Government of Canada.

On our language, I will continue to work toward the establishment of a language authority that can support each of our communities in their interest in reviving the use of our language by all ages. I hope that all of you continued to have a safe and fun summer. Cu.

Clifford Atleo Sr., President

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council