'We'll continue to win': How Indigenous leaders reached new heights in 2018
Trans Mountain pipeline decision, child welfare and language renaissance were major headlines in 2018
From a landmark court decision that put the brakes on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, to a Sixties Scoop settlement, to a renaissance in Indigenous languages, it was a fascinating year in Indigenous politics.
The stories have shed light on tensions, inequality and resilience in Indigenous communities.
Here are the highlights:
1. Pipeline pullout
The debate over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion didn't just trickle across the B.C. and Alberta borders, it surged across Canada.
Thousands of Indigenous people weighed in on a judicial review launched by several First Nations, including the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. In August, a federal Appeals Court court ruling quashed approval of the pipeline project.
Rueben George is the manager of the Sacred Trust, an initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation mandated to stop the Trans Mountain expansion.
"I always knew from the very beginning that we would win," George said.
"It was huge. Not not just across the country, but around the world. And it was a victory for First Nations, for sure, but it was a victory for everybody."
But not everyone thought it was a win — not the Canadian government nor businesses in B.C. Some feared the decision would put a chill on international investment in the province.
Some First Nations like the Whispering Pines, the Peters Band and a Métis organization in B.C. were looking at potential equity, a say in environmental protection and jobs for their communities.
Canada's purchase of the pipeline means the saga will not be over anytime soon.
2. Indigenous child welfare
Few knew about the lifelong effects of the Sixties Scoop until this year. In 2018, thousands of survivors applied for compensation, receiving up to $50,000 each under a class action settlement they won.
The case found the federal government failed to prevent Indigenous children from losing their identity after they were forcibly taken from their homes.
Thousands were placed in non-Indigenous care between 1959 and 1991, which resulted in psychological harm. But Indigenous children in great numbers continue to face being disconnected from their culture in non-Indigenous foster homes.
Child welfare dominated headlines in 2018 — from revelations that poverty and paperwork are the leading reasons that more than 60 per cent of children in care in B.C. are Indigenous, to a social worker named in several lawsuits for siphoning money for Indigenous youth.
For Mary Teegee, executive director of Carrier Sekani Family Services, the most important story of 2018 was when Ottawa announced it would hand over child welfare services to Indigenous governments. The move was made in an effort to drive down the high number of Indigenous children in foster care.
"We're on the precipice of making fundamental change and it's an exciting time," said Teegee, who is also a board member of the First Nations Caring Society.
"The ability to actually draft our own codes and our own laws based on our traditional child-rearing practices based on our culture, it's a phenomenal time right now and in Canadian history," she added.
3. Renaissance in Indigenous languages
This year saw a surge in exposure for Indigenous languages — in film, education and music.
The movie Edge of the Knife was scripted solely in the Haida language, Jeremy Dutcher sang his album entirely in his language and immersion language classes popped up across Canada.
For some, this solidified the importance of Indigenous people telling their own stories, rather than outsiders providing an anthropological view. Debates around cultural appropriation were critical this year, as well as recognizing the importance of authentication.
"I'm really hopeful that 2019 is going to give us an opportunity to get more coordinated and strengthen our voice together and and build from solutions," said Lou Anne Neal, a Kwaguilth artist who has been working to ensure Indigenous art is officially authenticated by governments.