Reconnecting with Lil’wat columnist, Tat7ush (Theresa Peters)

When the Question announced that January 23 2018 would be its final issue, I lamented all the local voices I’d no longer have the chance to hear. I asked Tat7ush if she would continue to share her insights with us, and we agreed that a good place to start would be to reproduce some of her earlier columns, as part of her reason for writing is to promote positive change, and to help people to understand Indigenous issues, and as I, confession, do not always ready every inch of the newspapers, and conceivably need a recap.

Here is the first one she shared in the Question, in February 2015.

Let me introduce myself. My traditional name is Tat7ush. I inherited this name from my mother. It means that I “Resemble Someone.”

Theresa Peters, Tat'ush's mother

Tat’ush Peters’ mother, Theresa Peters. Photo by Carl Sam.

My English name is Theresa Peters. I like it when people address me using my traditional name.

I’d like to thank The Whistler Question for taking me on as a columnist, and opening up to my ideas about the type of column that I would like to write. My columns will probably take a bit of a different approach than usual. I plan to focus on addressing different Native/mainstream society issues.  I live in a community of people who are traditional to this land. We live according to our customs and traditions within a mainstream world that rarely understands anything about who we are as a people.

Most of the time, it seems that we live within a parallel universe alongside mainstream society, with both sides not really understanding each other or interacting with each other.

Sometimes, our two worlds collide; most of the time it seems that we are seen as a hindrance to economic “progress” within our traditional territories.

I grew up in the Lil’wat community near Pemberton. I moved to the city when I was 18 to pursue post-secondary studies. I wanted to learn, and try to understand how the government and mainstream society study us, understand us, don’t understand us and are trying to understand us.

I have a degree in anthropology with an emphasis in First Nations studies. I focused all of the post-secondary courses that I took on studying how First Nations issues fit into different academic realms like sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, philosophy, forestry, English literature, etc.

You wouldn’t believe how these courses help students to understand historical and current Native issues. I’m not saying that these social sciences courses have all of the answers, but they are a step in helping society to understand the historical and current significance of First Nations’ socio-economic issues, among other issues.

Living in small town B.C., I experienced the tension between neighbouring mainstream society and my community. While attending the mainstream school in Pemberton, Native and non-Native students didn’t have much to do with each other. From my perspective as a Native student, we were ignored and treated as a non-people. I didn’t go to my high school graduation, and I didn’t go to my 10-year reunion when I received an invitation because I didn’t feel like an included part of the school while growing up. When I moved to the city, it was completely different. People were more tolerant. People spoke to each other. It was a more inclusive society. I liked living within a society where everyone fit in.

I moved home just over a year ago after being in the city for years. I missed the close-knit community spirit and strong cultural traditions of my people. But I knew that getting used to the parallel universe of living close to small town B. C. would be something that I’d have to get used to again.

Since I moved away, the neighbouring town of Pemberton has grown tremendously. It is one of the fastest growing towns in Canada, probably due to our proximity to Whistler. Since I moved away, a lot of what locals call “newbies” have moved into town. I have found that the social dynamics with newbies is different than dynamics with old blood locals from mainstream society. Newbies seem (at least to me) to be tolerant, and easier to interact with — more accepting of who we are as a people.

I hope I’m wrong; I hope that everyone is starting to understand each other more in today’s society. I believe that it is up to all of us to interact with each other in a good way, a tolerant way, an inclusive way.

I hope to write columns that help us to understand each other, tolerate each, other and get along better. I hope that you find my different approach to this column interesting and thought provoking.

Until next time …