Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars said he believes a resolution can be found for the totem pole that Tl’etinqox planned to gift the City of Williams Lake to raise in Boitanio Park.
Sellars was responding to comments made by Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse on Monday morning that his community was withdrawing the gift because the WLIB did not want it installed in the park.
“WLIB is proud of its proven history of working co-operatively with other First Nations, other levels of government and private industry,” Sellars said in a press release issued late Monday.
“We’re sure that if the community of Tl’etinqox approaches this situation with the same spirit of co-operation we can easily find a resolution which is acceptable to everyone.”
Sellars said WLIB received a letter from Alphonse on Monday about the totem pole and noticed Alphonse had made statements to media about the totem pole going into Botanio Park.
“I want to preface my statements by saying we met repeatedly with Chief Alphonse with a view of trying to find a workable solution,” Sellars noted. “The City of Williams Lake is squarely within the traditional territory of the WLIB and traditional protocol dictates that First Nations would have dialogue and conclude mutually acceptable arrangements before one community establishes what is intended to be a cultural marker in the territory of another. Unfortunately, in this instance that did not occur.”
WLIB is consulting with the elders, the community and the Secwepmec Nation in regards to the totem pole raising and the process takes time, Sellars added.
“Totem poles are not part of the history here and this has been stated numerous times in discussions with Chief Alphonse. To see the written correspondence and the press release is profoundly disappointing.”
Last year WLIB completed a 10-year litigation process in the Supreme Court of Canada regarding its specific land claim which found that descendants had been wrongfully displaced from traditional lands within which is now the city of Williams Lake.
Band Coun. Rick Gilbert said in light of that decision, it is more critical than ever to remember the history of the WLIB to make sure all residents and visitors to the region are aware of WLIB’s roots within the city.
“We are entirely open to further discussion with Chief Alphonse, but we emphasize that that discussion must be respectful and acknowledge the history of the WLIB in the city of Williams Lake,” Gilbert said.