What do the Tsimshian want and need? They need solidarity and basic protection. They want a land for their children to thrive in and they want a culture that fosters hope in future generations. The Tsimshian want to decrease federal infringements on their basic rights and they want to develop an equal partnership with the provincial government. From my research I have found six basic desires that the Tsimshian have. They need the government to take these steps in order to secure the continuation of their culture. These all require the cooperation of the government and the province of B.C.
1.) The Tsimshian want dignity, respect and authority in all their dealings with outside groups, organizations and government bodies. They want to preserve the traditions that define who they are. They want the Tsimshian culture to grow strong in the future and they want their people to feel pride. The Tsimshian have always been a strong group of warriors, hunters and spiritual leaders. They will do anything to avoid their rich history being compomised by mistreatment. The Tsimshian do not want to feel like a disenfranchised minority in a foreign land. They want spiritual and economic claims to the land that has been in their hands for millenia. With new government initiatives the Tsimshian can work on community development and create educational outreach programs to teach people about their people and traditions.
2.) The Tsimshian want it written in stone. They have experienced many tiring disputes over land and basic rights with the federal government and they want their rights solidly protected. The Tsimshian crave the comfort of knowing that the government can not arbitrarily change the agreements of the treaty. A treaty agreement will allow for self determined control and an enhanced role in local affairs. A treaty will convey the federal government's respect and appreciation for the Tsimshian culture.
3.) Most treaty agreements in B.C end with a capital deposit made on behalf of the federal government. The Yale First Nations, for example, have received over $10 million for educational and economic programs. The Tsimshian people should be getting these kinds of deposits from the government for various reasons. They are relatively isolated in location and they need a base amount of capital to create educationl, social and health services for their communities. A treaty essentially provides the tools for progress- for a brighter future. The Tsimshian will require a start up fund to create environmental and cultural initiatives. The Tsimshian are more than prepared for self determined rule and a self controlled economy. However, they absolutely need a deposit from the government if they are willing to make lasting changes that will positively impact their
future generations. In my opinion the government cannot pick and choose which tribes to financially support. Each tribe has contributed in different ways to our country and they must all be recognized for their contributions. I think the most beneficial step the government can take is to provide the Tsimshian money for environmental initiatives. As previously stated they have an innate knowledge of their ecosystem and they have hands-on experience on wildlife protection and conservation. We need to let the Tsimshian do what they do best-protect a delicate ecosystem from being exploited while fostering environmental growth.
4.) The Tsimshian want economic development initiatives from the government which are to be used strictly for the improvement and creation of Tsimshian industry. We need to see that talented Tsimshian entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to create innovative, successful businesses. The Tsimshian tradition is to work closely with family, neighbors and local tribes. Business, production and work are all intertwined with community, friendship and community bonds. This means that federal economic packages would not only stimulate Tsimshian economy but also Tsimshian life. By supporting their economy we will be supporting the bonds that bind the Tsimshian.
5.) Education is the cornerstone of a successful culture. First Nations children have repeatedly done worse on tests than other Canadian children. The high school drop out rate is higher for First Nations teenagers than any other ethnic group. The government has not directly addressed these issues. It is up to the Tsimshian community and local government to take their childrens education into their own hands. The government must provide financial support for this. Poorly distributed education is a national problem and must be treated as such. If the government financed programs to encourage First Nations education we could look forward to a bright, enthusiastic new generation who are interested in spreading their culture to the world. If education was self determined children could learn about their clans songs, traditions and legends at a young age. This would foster pride and interest in their background and in turn it would lead to a willingness to protect their culture. The Tsimshian want to establish an autonomous Tsimshian First Nations school district to start putting self determined education into practice. The Nisga'a tribe already has their own school district. The federal government and school board cannot make allowances for certain groups without considering making those allowances for every group.
6.) The Tsimshian people want their culture recognized and protected from industry or development. This means that areas they deem heritage sites are protected as such and that artifacts that have cultural significance are protected by the federal government. Many Coast Salish groups have the authority to make laws regarding the use, distribution and conservation of their artifacts. They have the right to access their tribes artifacts regardless of what museum they are located at. The Tsimshian deserve to have these rights, as well. They have a rich tradition of totem poles, elaborate carvings and beautiful garments. When the federal government pledges to protect these items-and the culture they represent- from disintegration they will have made a large stride in improving the relationship between the Tsimshian.