Letter: Thank you to Harold Joe’s ‘Tzouhalem’

The lands of the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island are under attack by development

Thank you to Harold Joe’s ‘Tzouhalem’

Harold Joe, a member of Cowichan Tribes, dreamed of telling the story of the legendary Chief Tzouhalem. After watching his documentary, I was inspired to write my opinion of what the meaning of the story has for me.

As described in the movie, Chief Tzouhalem’s legacy, in my opinion, was his ability to save the Cowichan lands and waters from the marauding northern tribes. He saved the cultural and spiritual tenures of his people’s claim on their territory.

Chief Tzouhalem also realized that he couldn’t fight the powers of the settlers who had far greater firepower. In this moment of defeat, the future of the Cowichan First Nations was degraded and the oppression of the Tribes continues to modern times. The Cowichan Tribes have fought for their culture and the pride of who they are for generations.

The lands of the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island are under attack by development. The signs are becoming more clear every day. The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board declared recently that there must be more housing developed to meet the demand. The demand from where, I ask?

Developers, unwittingly or not, are building housing that attracts migrants from the Mainland and foreign countries, (Stats Canada statistics bears this out), while our own children and grandchildren trying to live here can’t even afford rent, even if there was vacancy, and to suggest that the supply will ever meet demand, if all that is ever built are subdivision upon subdivision of luxury expensive homes, is a fallacy. Development based on this archaic model is a formula for disaster in the Cowichan Valley and as a whole on Vancouver Island.

Focusing on our valley alone, if there was ever a time to change the development model, it is now. We have a responsibility to the land and the waters of this region to preserve the precious natural rural state of our environment. The frenzy to develop without controls on population growth will continue to have its negative impacts, which are evident by simply looking at our neighbouring cities, where the covering up of the land with concrete, pavement and construction of sprawl, is obvious.

The people of our rural region must stand up to the misguided notion that we can build our way out of the housing problem, because the housing problem has been created by the very people who promote it. Locally and in my opinion our Mayor Siebring’s and Councillor Manhas’s rationales are stumbling blocks to our otherwise progressive council in North Cowichan, at present, who for the most part, are trying to formulate a new guidance system that is up to date and in keeping with our rapidly changing environment. I refer to the new Official Community Plan and Forestry Management Plan, that position the environment and social aspect of our community, first.

We as the residents and taxpayers of the Cowichan must vote in leaders to our municipal councils and regional districts, in upcoming elections, that will put into practice a new age model of stewardship of the region. If there was ever a time to recognize truth and reconciliation with our First Nations neighbours it is now. The cultural, spiritual and environmental aspects of where we live demands protection in every possible way. We need leaders who recognize the importance of what really matters. The status quo of governance of the past is not good enough for this region. We need leaders who are prepared to act, not just talk, for the importance and protection of nature.

The world is in turmoil and that turmoil has been carried right to our doorsteps by the impacts of the negative ideologies of the misguided few in the world, who want to continue harming and destroying the environment. We, here in the Cowichan, are facing a rare opportunity to be different. We can embrace, preserve and dictate policies that can leave a legacy of protection of the environment for the next generation. We can learn from the lessons of the past, the lessons handed down by the original peoples who believe that the land and waters are sacred and must be protected. Do we have the strength of Chief Tzouhalem to fight for change?

Bryan Senft