Indian chiefs from around British Columbia will descend on Whistler Tuesday for an annual assembly to be co-hosted by the Lil'wat First Nation.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is holding its annual general assembly (AGA) from September 14 to 16 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a meeting in which delegates from First Nations throughout the province will pass resolutions and bylaws and discuss issues that require their attention moving forward.
As Whistler lies in the traditional territory of the Lil'wat First Nation, the nation has been asked to co-host the assembly.
"It's sort of a welcoming role," said Lil'wat Chief Lucinda Phillips. "We'll be welcoming all the visitors and guests into Whistler. We're going to present them with some of our songs and dances, and hopefully get to tour them in the Squamish-Lil'wat Cultural Centre."
The UBCIC works to provide political support to members as they look to see aboriginal rights observed and respected at the community, provincial or national levels. The organization aims to be a voice "strong enough to be heard in every part of the world."
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip isn't sure precisely what items will come up at the assembly but he said there's plenty of issues at both the federal and provincial levels that command the union's attention.
"Generally speaking we discuss issues of concern from our member communities and we represent approximately 100 First Nation communities in the province of B.C.," he said. "So we represent essentially half the First Nations in the province, so just a whole gamut of issues they bring forward at the conference and we discuss and debate the issues and pass resolutions."
Of co-hosting the assembly with Lil'wat he said, "It's a matter of respect.
"When you go into somebody else's traditional territory to approach them and to basically secure their blessing, so to speak," Phillip said. "We travelled to the Mount Currie community and met with the chief and spent the better part of the day there discussing the upcoming annual general assembly and so on and so forth.
"We were given a tour of their incredibly beautiful administration building and whatnot, quite impressed with the goals and vision of the Lil'wat Nation under the leadership of Chief Lucinda Phillips, so once we came back from Mount Currie we made the announcement that we were going to be holding our AGA in Whistler."
Issues facing First Nations on a national level include a funding crunch that could soon hit Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the federal ministry that administers matters relating to the country's First Nations, Inuit and Metis populations. Cuts to that ministry would come along with an estimated $4 billion in cuts to the public service that the federal government promised in its last election platform.
"I think that the newly-named Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development will receive substantial cutbacks, not only at the community level but at the provincial level," Phillip said. "I'm sure that will be a matter of concern during the course of our assembly."