The Provincial Capital Commission’s work is based in the traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. PCC directors and staff recognize and honour the contributions and achievements of the province’s Aboriginal people over the millennia.
For thousands of years before the first sailing ships carried European explorers and fur traders to the shores of Canada’s west coast, the Coast Salish people – including the Songhees and Esquimalt nations – called this area their home. They lived a culturally rich and self-sufficient existence harvesting the bounties of land and sea.
With its sheltered Inner Harbour providing calm water and abundant clam beds, with nearby camas fields and cedar trees to be harvested, with salmon to catch and deer to hunt, what later became the Capital region was not only home to the Songhees and Esquimalt nations, but also a gathering place for First People from all over the Pacific Northwest to trade and to celebrate.
But the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company of Adventurers, and followed by gold-seekers making their way up the Fraser River, changed the fate of First Nations throughout the province. Populations were decimated due to smallpox and other diseases. Villages were relocated, their way of life forever changed by such policies as the Indian Act and the Residential School system. These all had long-term impacts on First Nations people everywhere.
But despite such tragic and challenging events, the Capital region’s First Peoples lived on. And now there is a resurgence of traditional language, culture and belief systems. Today their culture is not only alive, but growing in strength.
It has been a long and difficult journey, but now the future shows signs of hope, understanding and prosperity. Today, First Nations people are reasserting their right to take control of their destiny through treaty negotiations, movement towards self-governance, partnerships, community involvement and leadership roles, including the highest-ranking position in the province. Steven L. Point, a Coast Salish member of the Sto:lo Nation, served as BC’s Lieutenant Governor and the Queen’s symbolic representative in the province from 2007 to 2012.
The PCC is committed to engaging Aboriginal people of British Columbia in ways that are meaningful to them. We are honoured to participate and to partner with them in initiatives that help them – and others – connect to their history, their community, their culture, and their contributions and achievements. We raise our hands to them in friendship and respect.