A MONTHLY newsletter is at the forefront of a local First Nation’s task of informing its members about the ins and outs of land claims treaties.
The Canyon Current regularly provides information on specific aspects of what treaties contain and keeps Kitselas First Nation members aware of events and meetings pertaining to treaties.
It all takes place from Hilary Zornow’s office just inside the Kitselas treaty and lands building on Queensway.
The Kitselas communications director, Zornow solicits material and generates her own as the deadline for each issue of the Canyon Current approaches.
“We’re engaged in getting information out to the community,” said Zornow of the Canyon Current’s role for the approximately 500 members of the Kitselas First Nation.
Issues contain a mixture of information relating to treaties and articles on Kitselas First Nation activities and notes of interest to Kitselas members.
Copies are mailed out, made available at offices within the Kitselas community and each issue is posted on the Kitselas First Nation’s website.
The June issue, for example, contains a report of a community meeting featuring Herb George of the National Centre for First Nations Governance and Fred Tolmie, the chief executive officer of the Nisga’a Lisims Government.
The topic of the meeting was, “Why Treaty: Settling the Land Question.”
The community meeting was one of several to be sponsored by the Kitselas treaty office and covered in the Canyon Current.
While separate in nature, the meetings and the newsletter are part of what Zornow describes as a comprehensive effort to provide as much information as possible on treaty negotiations.
That effort has gained more importance because both the Kitselas and the neighbouring Kitsumkalum are working toward having draft agreements in principle ready for debate within their communities this year.
Those agreements must be approved and must also be accepted by the federal and provincial governments to move on to final treaty negotiations.
The communications plan extends beyond the Canyon Current and community meetings and a web site to include a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
“Anyone can join,” said Zornow of the Facebook account at http://on.fb.me/kitselastreaty. “It’s a conscious decision we made. It’s part of our philosophy to encourage free thinking — thinking out of the box.”
The Kitselas treaty team has also hired a group of people to go door to door, presenting information and taking questions.
Zornow admits there’s a fine line between providing information and bombarding people with information but says the complexities of treaty making require making multiple efforts at communicating.
“It’s really a two-way street. It’s up to the community to engage in that process as well,” she said.
That means accepting that people will oppose treaty negotiations. “You can be opposed but at least listen to what we have to say, and be respectful,” Zornow adds.
The need for the Canyon Current and subsequent communication methods was laid out in 2008 by Mel Bevan who for years has lead negotiations at Kitselas.
“He realized the need to communicate information to the Kitselas membership,” said Zornow. “We’ve tried really hard to fulfill that mandate.”
Zornow has been communications director for about 19 months, replacing Holly Spencer who went on maternity leave.