THE ADVOCATE 365
VOL. 77 PART 3 MAY 2019
THE IMPORTANCE OF WELCOMING
IN INDIGENOUS CULTURE*
By kwes’ kwestin (Jim Kew)
FIRST NATIONS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
British Columbia is home to many of the Aboriginal languages found in
Canada.1 On the province’s website there are two different figures for the
number of First Nations in the territory claimed by the province. As of the
date of writing, the province’s website recognizes 198 First Nations in the
province.2 Yet it also carries a 2016 report produced by the Ministry of Education
and the First Nations Education Steering Committee stating that there
are 203 First Nation communities and 34 First Nation languages in B.C.3
This diversity of language and culture is not new. This diversity in this
region has existed for many thousands of years. In the many generations
that have spanned this time a general protocol has evolved among First
Nations for visiting and introductions.
In the past, as is the case now, a visit and a meeting were not casual
events. A visit would have a purpose: political, economic or social. Just as
modern industrial society has laws that regulate political, economic and
social activity, traditional laws of Indigenous societies, in the past and
present, also regulate their political, economic and social activity in their
The protocol for visiting originated in a time when oral history and traditional
law regulated society. As a host you would announce your name, lineage
and community. As a guest you would acknowledge your host’s
authority and announce your name, lineage and community.
In the past the territorial acknowledgement had the authority of a court
document. To a people with an oral history and no calendars, the territorial
acknowledgement established a memorable event from which to reference
the work witnessed during the visit. It is one of the cumulative details that
confirmed an agreement or relationship.
* This paper was first published by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia (“CLEBC”) as part of its 2018
Cultural Competency seminar. It is reprinted here with kind permission of the CLEBC and the author.