Chief Planes was on hand to open his First Nation’s first commercial operation on land the T’Souke was ceded through an Incremental Treaty Agreement with the B.C. Government. (File)

Chief Planes was on hand to open his First Nation’s first commercial operation on land the T’Souke was ceded through an Incremental Treaty Agreement with the B.C. Government. (File)

T’Souke First Nation hopes to share its environmental wisdom

A return to a traditional world view is critical to many issues

The T’Souke First Nation has a lot to teach the people of Sooke, says Chief Gordon Planes.

“The beginnings of the municipality of Sooke happened to the settlers taking lessons from the First Nation. The name of Sooke was taken from our name and was one that recognized and respected those beginnings,” Planes said.

But the actions of the government in the 1870s and 1880s and the harm done by the residential school system destroyed much of that relationship. The T’Souke were forced onto a reserve and a concerted effort at assimilation began.

Today, though, Planes is working hard to help recapture the ethos that sustained his people before the arrival of Europeans and to pass along lessons to the broader community.

“We once live sustainable taking only what we needed from the land and the sea. When we fished salmon, we took what we needed, but always knew to leave enough for the killer whales and the other animals,” Planes said.

“The settlers came and, within 100 years, they wiped out our resources. Their logging affected river systems and disrupted the entire ecosystem, including the First Nations. It was all connected. They never learned that.”

ALSO READ: A matter of history

But the tiny T’Souke Nation, which occupies 67 hectares of land and is made up of 255 members, is determined to revive the culture of sustainability.

“We are moving back to stewards of the environment – reducing our footprint and helping to repair the damage that’s been done,” Planes said.

That philosophy was demonstrated in 2010, when solar panels were installed on the roofs of buildings on the reserve, making them self-sufficient in electrical energy. By 2013, the T’Souke were developing community greenhouses to grow crops for both domestic consumption and export.

The First Nation has also been active in the cleaning up of the Sooke basin and Planes is working to restore the oyster beds that he once harvested as a boy.

“We are working on addressing the septic fields that leech contaminants into the water. We want to educate people about food security,” Planes said.

“These things are all interrelated. We knew that centuries ago, and its a lesson we’re saying society needs to re-learn.”

But Planes recognizes that the T’Souke is a First Nation with a foot in two worlds.

This year it embarked on its first significant commercial venture when it opened a gas bar and Tim Hortons restaurant.

RELATED: New Tim Horton’s opens

That development came after an Incremental Treaty Agreement was reached that ceded two 60-hectare parcels of Crown land to the T’Souke Nation to allow for light industrial development opportunities.

“We (the T’Souke and the municipality) have to transition together and it won’t happen overnight. The jobs provided by that venture were important to our community,” Planes said.

Asked about problems of discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and poverty, Planes took time to respond.

“Again, it’s all connected. These social issues exist everywhere and not just in First Nations, but sometimes we get painted with the same brush. All any of us can do is to constantly teach and re-teach the lessons of the past to each new generation and work toward healthy communities,” he said.

Planes maintained that, as a T’Souke leader, he works to keep a strong cultural identity and work care for the land. As a Canadian, he says, he’ll spread the message to the broader community that we all need to pick up the pace on caring for the environment.

“The world has made us all interdependent, and we need to learn to live with less,” he said.

“The choices we make today will have an effect for hundreds of years, and affect our children who aren’t yet born. That’s the lesson we want to pass on to others.”



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

New changes are being proposed to four streets in James Bay to allow better access for cyclists. Residents have until June 11 to provide feedback. (Black Press Media file photo)
New revisions to James Bay bike lanes open for feedback

Routes on Government and Montreal streets planned for 2022

An elderly man having a medical emergency in Mount Douglas Park on May 13 was rescued by firefighters and paramedics with the help of ATVs. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Rescue team uses ATVs get man in medical distress out of Saanich park and to hospital

Cedarhill Road closed as firefighters, paramedics rescue man in Mount Douglas Park

While recovering several items reported stolen from the set of a Netflix movie in early April, West Shore RCMP also seized drugs and drug trafficking items from a Colwood residence last week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Electronics, credit cards taken from Neflix set found in Colwood home

West Shore RCMP seize stolen items, drugs, trafficking materials

Saanich police used a drone to investigate a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal West Saanich Road crash

Driver who died veered across center line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read