As a raven flew overhead to the west and the sun peeked above a nearby mountain, new highway signs featuring Tsilhqot’in community name places were unveiled on Highway 20 Friday morning.
“These signs are symbols of the fact we are working with the government on our title lands,” said Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah) Chief Roger William. “As I look at the river below I’m reminded of myself as a child on the banks of rivers in the Chilcotin. Our children and future generations will now see these signs in our own language. That’s exciting.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), working with the Tsilhqot’in National Government, has created 29 new mileage signs.
The two unveiled Friday will be erected at the Pablo Creek Road on Highway 20 and the others will go up as far west as Charlotte Lake.
Two signs for Esdilagh (Alexandria) will be go up on Highway 97 at the Mackenzie Avenue turnoff and on the West Fraser Road.
Esdilagh Chief Bernie Mack said the signs are about progress, inclusion, partnership with other communities and recognition.
“The signs are also about rules, destination and culture,” Mack said. “We welcome everybody into this area and we also live with other people in our backyards.”
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure operations manager Dan Palesch told the chiefs it has been a pleasure to work on the sign project.
“It’s been a joint co-operative effort between our ministry and your community members through the design of these signs,” Palesch said. “We’ve been working closely through the last few months.”
He said the ministry is proud of the project and the fact it is getting recognition.
Tl’exqox (Toosey) Chief Francis Laceese said it has been a 150-year struggle by the Tsilhqot’in Nation to be recognized as a peoples that have full jurisdiction over their territories.
“That’s the process we are engaged in with the provincial government, and hopefully soon with the federal government,” Laceese added.
Tsi Del Del (Redstone) Chief Percy Guichon echoed Laceese saying it has been a long journey for the nation to have rights and title recognized.
“This is a monumental and proud moment for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and one small step toward having our rights recognized by the B.C. government,” Guichon said, noting the signs are proof they are working with the provincial government on an agreement.
William said he hopes the negotiating at the provincial government level is catching the attention of the federal government.
“When the federal government recognizes the First Peoples of this country then Canada’s going to improve and if they don’t they will see resistance throughout this country,” William said.
It is anticipated the rest of the signs will be going up during the next several weeks, said MOTI area manager Leeah Tappert.