By Michelle Myers
There is a very calming presence that comes with physically being on the land. This presence is accompanied by elements of my being finding ease with each step further connecting to this ancestral space. Our Tŝilhqot’in ancestral spirits and beings are deeply connected to the areas in which they walked, spoke, sang, and breathed, connected to the areas our blood has occupied since time immemorial in which today we call our ‘traditional territories.’ A term that has been severely distorted from its original meanings by forcing it into the English language and settler-colonial worldviews. Similar to the ways our current opposition is forced into a stream of foreign legal procedures which stem from the concept of British dominion jurisdiction, despite the fact that a dominion requires sovereignty over land. A sovereignty that the British empire never acquired given that the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and people never gave that up. A clash in beliefs, values, language, and worldviews us as Tŝilhqot’in Xeni Gwet’in know all too well.
As my physical being settles into these surroundings of place, my mind, emotions, and spirit seem to have already registered this comfort of coming home. This is hard to capture in words on a page, but as I look around to the community that has gathered I can see these emotions settle into place with everyone.
To be present on the land is a tradition that has been long practiced throughout these waterways of Teẑtan Biny by the Xeni Gwet’in. As a community we may have not always been loud in our presence the way the midugh governments need us to be in order to prove ‘traditional occupancy’, but we have been here. We connect with these areas not just by our physical practice of hunting, fishing, gathering medicines and berries but also through our emotional, mental, and spiritual connections to the air, water, trees, wildlife, and places of high cultural significance. The proposal of “New Prosperity” by Taseko Mines threatens the connections to our very beings in a way that only reciprocates Canada’s bloody history of placing Indigenous spirituality on the butchering block of a colonized agenda. A history that has been deviously and precisely orchestrated hand-in-hand with corporate destruction to Indigenous lands. A threat that as Indigenous peoples we know all too well.
For us it is not about being in opposition to “progress,” or disagreeing with another’s way of life, or not wanting to come out of the stone ages to join a modern economy. It is to continue to be Xeni Gwet’in. So as the community quietly gathers, I am surrounded by ?etu’s, ?etsi’s, young ones, outspoken ones, gentle ones, and supporters from other places. The spirit of this place breathes life into our journey and offers us protection along the way. We gather what is needed and offer our gratitude and love in return, we cook our traditional foods to feed and sustain our bodies, Tŝilhqot’in stories are shared and more often than not they are accompanied by laughter. Our very practice is resistance enough for the great ones to help us. Our very presence is resilience enough for centuries worth of prayer to protect our sacred footprints on this land. And our love for something more than money will be enough to keep us on this land.
Michelle Myers is from Xeni Gwet’in First Nations, one of the six communities that make up the Tŝilhqot’in Nation in the central interior or BC. She has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Native studies along with a Certificate in Aboriginal Governance and Partnership and is a full-spectrum Indigenous Doula. Her current life work focuses on reclaiming pre- and post-natal practices within her Tŝilhqot’in culture and looks at the intersectionalities of birthing persons health, communal health, and land health.
The views and opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author.
Photo credit: Michelle Myers