In a celebration with about 1,000 people that shook the foundation of the Gingolx Community Centre, Nisga’a and Tahltan leaders signed documents almost as tall as themselves to signify just how massive of a deal their alliance is.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was a re-affirmation of a deal signed in May of 2016, but the significance of this signing between the two nations would be hard to understate. This was the first time the Tahltan were officially invited to Nisga’a territory.
The deal is to strengthen economic ties especially, with mining operations like Pretivm’s Brucejack and the planned KSM mine moving into the area.
Tahltan Central Government President Chad Day and Nisga’a Lisims Government President Eva Clayton exchanged gifts and each took a turn at the microphone to talk about why this was such an important occasion.
Day spoke of the chance to combine forces and use each other’s strengths while helping their ally with weaknesses. He stressed the history of Tahltan work in mining over the centuries, pointing to the obsidian around his neck. Day also looked forward to combining forces on culture, perhaps inspired by the incredible performances he saw.
Clayton touted the historical significance, bringing up an original 1898 treaty that started the path to recognized boundaries, peace and cooperation between the nations. She then also looked forward to the training, employment and business for the nations’ contractors in a long-term sustainable economy, while being stewards to the land of B.C.’s northwest.
It was a good time to hold an MOU signing, with Hobiyee celebrations coinciding and a packed building housing up to a thousand chiefs, dancers, singers and revellers.
Hobiyee is the Nisga’a new year. It happens usually in February during the last crescent moon, and gets everyone ready for the return of the oolichan — the first source of food for the new year.
Things kicked off with a huge choreographed performance by the Nisga’a cultural dancers, spreading powerful waves with drums, dancing and singing over the crowd. The Tahltan also took a turn, encouraging people to join in. All this as smells circulated from the kitchen for the upcoming feast, and under the crescent moon suspended from the ceiling.
Earth’s true, first satellite was swinging towards the horizon, getting set to rise and signal a new beginning.