Wisdom

In 1996, I was elected the mayor of the district of Tofino in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s territory, Nuu-chah-nulth territory. I had the opportunity to go on a five-minute boat ride just across the waterway to Meares Island to Opitsaht, which is one of the communities in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations’ territory. It’s actually where the seat of their government is. So I went and met with the chief councillor and his council. I was informed during that meeting that I was the first mayor of Tofino to ever go across and visit in Opitsaht, and visit the chief and council, which I found shocking. I subsequently was asked by the province to sit on a board called Clayoquot Sound Central Region Board. During my time on the board, I often sat beside hereditary chief for Ahousaht, Earl Maquinna George. He has since passed, but he taught me. If I have any wisdom, he taught it to me during my time with him, sitting with him and that board. It was a term–a Nuu-chah-nulth term–that I’ve always remembered because he hammered it into me over a three-year period. He’d ask me to say it every time we’d come in for a meeting. I’d sit down and I’d go, “Hishuk’ish tsawalk.” I remember him shaking his head and going, “No, no, no.” And one day he said, “Uhh, that’s close enough.” But it’s the true meaning that I’ve always held close to my heart and it is the wisdom that I’ve learned from Nuu-chah-nulth. It is all things are connected, everything is one. I try to bring that wisdom that I learned from a hereditary chief, Earl Maquinna George from Ahousaht. I try to bring that into the Legislature every day that we come and make decisions, because decision-makers, I think, miss that piece of wisdom, that Hishuk’ish tsawalk: all things are connected, everything is one. We make decisions and often we do not look at the big picture. We do not look at the impacts that might have on something else. We look in a siloed way that often doesn’t always reflect reality or any holistic nature of what we do.