NEWS RELEASE · 19th July 2010
M. of Children & Family Dvlp.
The Kaska, Tahltan and Tlingit Nations welcomed Minister of Children and Family Development Mary Polak to traditional lands in B.C.'s Stikine Region for an historic gathering to mark the renewal of traditional and community-based supports for children and families.
"This agreement is a milestone for all of us," said Polak. "We recognize the first child and family wellness agreement in history that demonstrates partnership between the Kaska, Tahltan and Tlingit Nations, and we celebrate our joint commitment to build a strong future for their children, families, Elders and communities."
A partnership memorandum between the ministry, the Tahltan Band, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, the Daylu Dena Council, the Iskut First Nation and the Dease River First Nation recognizes their precedent-setting collaboration and the ministry's support as the Nations work together to develop their own service plans - based on the wisdom and knowledge they have always had for the care and protection of their children and families.
"With this agreement, the government is acknowledging respect for our families and First Nation values," said Annita McPhee, Chair of the Tahltan Central Council. "Not long ago, we didn't have a choice in how we were able to take care of our families. We watched as children were apprehended and sent to residential schools. Now, we have the support to raise our children in safe homes."
"When our three Nations got together to address our challenges, the possibility of positive change in our families and communities was realized," said Tahltan Band Chief Rick MacLean. "With the help of our communities, the ministry, and front-line workers we are going to see our children raised with traditional supports. This is the first step on a long journey ahead to healing and healthy communities."
The Nations are working together and within their individual communities to build upon existing community strengths and incorporate extended family, Elders, leadership, teachers, and front-line workers into their traditional support structures.
"I'm looking forward to change for our children," said John D. Ward, spokesperson for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. "I'm really grateful to see the Nations sit together and overlook our differences for the betterment of our children and families and I'm thankful the Government of B.C. saw the potential in what it is we are trying to do."
"For the first time ever, the government has asked us how we are going to deal with our children and families. They've asked us for our advice and listened to our voices," said Daylu Dena Council Chief Walter Carlick. "Hopefully, from this moment forward we can work to keep our children and families together."
The Nations, in turn, are listening to their community members about ways to renew their traditional, community based approaches to supporting children and families. Cultural camps, talking circles and fireside discussions have been held to gather community input.
"When I started working as a social worker for the Iskut Band in 1978, the band had no say in the decisions being made," said Chief Marie Quock of the Iskut First Nation. "Today marks the beginning of a new process where families will have more support in place and we continue to build upon the strength of our communities to develop a system that works for all concerned."