Apr 15, 2021

TangataWhenua.com

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori Whakapapa represented in four First Nations hosting the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

7 min read

TangataWhenua.com has recently found that Maori whakapapa has helped make history by ensuring that those who have mana whenua in Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic Games — as fully engaged partners in the Games! The four first nations are — Squamish, Lil’wat, Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh.

FourHostNationsCCEO of the non-profit society, Four First Nations, Tewanne Joseph (pictured left), whose father was a Maori musician and who has worked tirelessly with and for his people to ensure this inspiring outcome saying.

From our understanding, Tewanne’s father was Sam Mateparae from Wanganui and played for the Quintikis’ show band of the 1960s.

The 2010 Games will be defined by, and remembered for, aboriginal participation… We are full and active partners in every aspect of the Games. We’re no longer window dressing, dime store Indians or an afterthought in a headdress trotted out at opening and closing ceremonies.

An awesome example of how indigenous tribes can work together, how indigenous culture can be shared with the world and how Maori can inspire transformational change at home and worldwide.

What follows is an edited excerpt of remarks delivered in Toronto by the CEO and of the not-for-profit society representing the four First Nations who will host the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.


My mother was Squamish; my father was a Maori musician. I grew up in what the media insist on describing as the “gritty and mean streets” of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. But it was home to me. And, with the unconditional love of my mother and extended family, I survived, playing sports from dawn to dusk — especially lacrosse, which helped to direct my energies in a positive direction, and made me some lifelong friendships.

I lived for lacrosse, eventually playing at a high level. I was fortunate to be offered scholarships to several U.S. universities. And I was on the verge of packing my bags to head stateside when the late Chief Joe Mathias, one of Canada’s leading aboriginal thinkers, challenged me directly: Why not stay in North Vancouver and fight for your people? Help them take their rightful place in the economic and social mainstream of this country. Help them break stereotypes and engage the outer world in a self-actualizing way.

At the time, I should point out, I was serving on council for the Squamish Nation. I was the youngest ever elected and, for several years, was in the unique position of working closely with Chief Mathias. One day — and I have never forgotten it — Chief Mathias said to us: If we ever get a chance to participate in the Olympics, we must grasp that opportunity; we will get to share our culture with the world.

And so it came to pass after many years of the hardest negotiations I have ever taken part in. First, the four nations — Squamish, Lil’wat, Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh — came together. And, it wasn’t easy. There were issues we had to work out and, over the course of two years or so, I met with leaders from these nations more than I had my entire career as a councillor. But we did it; we found common ground. And then this first partnership led to another, then another — as we formed alliances with VANOC, the provincial and federal governments, the city of Vancouver, Whistler and many others.

We made history: For the first time, aboriginal people would host the Olympics — as full and active partners in the Games! So, here we are today: 115 days before the opening ceremony. There is much yet to be done. No more time for planning. Time for action.

What does this mean? First, the Games provide an opportunity for aboriginal peoples to showcase their cultures, their entrepreneurial spirit, to share a bit of us with visitors from across Canada and around the world. I am convinced the Games can be transformational. And the Olympics are providing jobs and development to local aboriginal communities; some living in isolated rural areas recognize the Games as an economic stimulus package helping them during the economic downturn.

The 2010 Games will be defined by, and remembered for, aboriginal participation. Consider: We are full and active partners in every aspect of the Games. We’re no longer window dressing, dime store Indians or an afterthought in a headdress trotted out at opening and closing ceremonies.

Last week, we unveiled the 2010 medals. The gold, silver and bronze medals feature west coast aboriginal designs of ravens and orcas based on artworks by B.C. artist Corrine Hunt. And for the first time in Olympic history, we have created a retail merchandising deal that will recognize indigenous art as part of an official Olympic program.

Next week the Olympic torch starts up. For 106 days, 12,000 torchbearers will haul the flame through 1,000 communities — 115 of which are aboriginal — before arriving at

B.C. Place Stadium for the Feb. 12 opening ceremonies. The relay for the Vancouver-Whistler games is also ambitious. It will be the longest ever in a host country. The serpentine route will bring the torch within a one-hour drive of 90% of Canada’s population.

I am convinced that the vast majority of Canadians are excited about the Olympic Games and the Olympic torch relay and we look forward to celebrating with them every step of the way.

Will there be protests? Of course; in this country people have every right to express their opinions. I respect that.

But, in my view, some of the protesters are just plain wrong. Perhaps they don’t understand, that aboriginal people, respecting each other’s territory as we do, would never barge onto their land and hold a protest. Then, too, I suspect, some of the protesters have not done their homework. Perhaps they don’t realize just how much aboriginal people are benefitting, and will benefit, directly and indirectly, from the Games.

Consider, first, aboriginal employment. The numbers speak for themselves. To date more than 100 aboriginal businesses are working on Gamesrelated activities for a total of more than $53-million.

At the same time, Four Host First Nations has worked in partnership with the First Nations Employment Society and other partners to offer three recruitment fairs for 2010 job opportunities. To date, we have held three job fairs, with another to be held this week. So far, they have been a tremendous success: Sodexco, the food and beverage company, has hired 53, PTI 65 and NBC 25 aboriginal people. All are looking for more recruits. And these are good jobs. Wages range from $13 to $29 an hour. These and many other jobs provide irrefutable proof of an Olympic legacy. New jobs and new skills for aboriginal people directly linked to the Games. And so it may come as no surprise to you that I reject anyone else who attempts to speak on our behalf.

Now I don’t deny for one minute the dire facts of aboriginal life in this country today. I see them every day on my reserve:

  • Aboriginal people experience an unemployment rate that is at least double that of other Canadians.
  • Aboriginal males die 7.4 years earlier than non-aboriginal men. An aboriginal woman will die 5.2 years earlier than her non-native counterpart.
  • The suicide rate in aboriginal communities is twice the national rate. Aboriginals between the ages of 10 and 24 are at least five times more likely to commit suicide than a non-aboriginal Canadian in the same age group.
  • Only one in four aboriginal people between 15 and 44 years of age holds a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree, compared to about half of the non-aboriginal population. Two out of three aboriginal children living on reserves will not graduate from high school.

In fact, I agree with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell’s description of the lot of first nations in Canadian society: He called it Canada’s third solitude. These are the facts. It’s a national indictment I see every day on my own reserve. But many are working to address and resolve the problems.

Surely then, we would take every opportunity to change things for the better, to create a better life for our children. And what precisely do these non-aboriginal naysayers have to teach aboriginal people? How are smashed windows, military fatigues and balaclavas helping to address Canada’s long-standing “Indian Problem”?

Do these protesters really want us to remain forever the dime store Indian, the lone figure at the end of a gravel road, trapped in the isolation of an inner-city nightmare?

Do these protesters not realize they are forcing aboriginal people, yet again, into a dreadful mould, a stereotype that takes us back to a shameful chapter in Canadian history?

We fought to participate in the Games as full partners. We fought for the jobs. We fought for respect.

That is why few aboriginal people are likely to be swayed by protesters’ salvos of warmed-over, anti-corporate rhetoric. That is yesterday’s news for the aboriginal people of this country. We are eager to be part of the Games: as athletes, artists, workers, performers, volunteers. We witness nothing less than a tidal wave of grass-roots enthusiasm that, quite frankly, means we have to work overtime to manage expectations.

After twice criss-crossing the ragged landscape of this country, I go on the record to confirm: The vast majority of aboriginal peoples are solidly behind the Games.

Tewanee Joseph is CEO of Four Host First Nations

2 thoughts on “Maori Whakapapa represented in four First Nations hosting the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

  1. Olympic Resistance Network

    The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place on unceded indigenous land from February 12-28, 2010.

    The effects of the upcoming Winter Games have already manifested themselves- with the expansion of sport tourism and resource extraction on indigenous lands; increasing homelessness and gentrification of poor neighbourhoods; increasing privatization of public services; union busting through imposed contracts and exploitative conditions especially for migrant labour; the fortification of the national security and military apparatus; ballooning public spending and public debt; and unprecedented destruction of the environment.

    The Olympic Resistance Network is primarily based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories and exists as a space to coordinate anti-2010 Olympics efforts. In doing so, we act in solidarity with other communities across 'BC' – particularly indigenous communities who have been defending their land against the onslaught of the Olympics since the bid itself. Our organizing is largely being done under the slogan of "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land," while creating an opportunity for all anti-capitalist, indigenous, anti-poverty, labour, migrant justice, environmental justice, anti-war, and anti-colonial activists to come together to confront this two-week circus and the oppression it represents.

    In addition to building ongoing educational and resistance efforts, we are organizing towards an anti-2010 convergence based on the call for an international boycott by native warriors – particularly at the Indigenous Peoples Gathering in Senora, Mexico in October 2007. We hope to see you all in 2010 to demonstrate our indignation and resistance!

    ORN website (under construction): http://olympicresistance.net/

    Thanks to Barbara Low for this korero>
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=22399134613

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