Lheidli T'enneh Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney presents Pam Spooner, Director of Aboriginal Education for School District No. 57, with a plaque and flag at the Nov. 29 Balhats, held at Uda Dune Baiyoh (House of Ancestors).
Lheidli T'enneh Nation makes history regaining its Balhats
History was made on Nov. 29, 2019 when the Lheidli T’enneh Nation hosted the first Balhats (Potlatch) in its territory in 73 years.
An All Clans Balhats was hosted to celebrate the unique partnership between the Lheidli T’enneh Nation and School District No. 57 (Prince George). The two groups have worked diligently over the past few years to develop a Local Education Agreement and support the Aboriginal Advisory Committee. An All Clans Balhats was identified as the appropriate ceremony to be held to recognize the unique partnership.
“We believe this is a first in Canada – an indigenous nation reclaiming its most important governance system and at the same time, recognize and celebrate a unique partnership with its local school district,” said Lheidli T’enneh Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney. “About 30 per cent of the students in SD 57 are self-identified as indigenous. One of our key priorities as Lheidli T’enneh is to ensure that our students and those of other indigenous nations and communities are supported at every level to achieve educational success. SD 57 has welcomed our commitment to work with their team to ensure we achieve this objective. To know that a Lheidli T’enneh flag and plaque celebrating this unique partnership will be displayed in every public school in our territory is truly reconciliation in action.
“Traditionally, the Balhats was the process for indigenous nations and communities to conduct our business, acknowledge our ancestors and deal with other important matters,” Dayi Pountney added. “For many years in Canada, hosting a Balhats was against the law. The last one held in Lheidli T’enneh territory we believe was 1946, so (this) All Clans Learning Balhats to recognize our unique partnership with SD 57 is historical in every sense and will serve as a platform for future Balhats. (Nov. 29 was) the day that the Lheidli T’enneh Nation regained the Balhats, regained our history and turned the corner toward a vibrant, sustainable future.”
Earlier this year, the Lheidli T’enneh announced that it will work with SD 57 and the Ministry of Education to have one of the trustee positions on the Board of Education filled by a Lheidli T’enneh member. Dayi Pountney says the day this becomes a reality will truly enable the Lheidli T’enneh to be involved in all important decisions in SD 57 to support Lheidli and other indigenous students.