Welcome To The World’s Biggest Potlatch!
A Potlatch is a big party hosted by one First Nations clan in honour of another and, according to Tewanee Joseph, the CEO of the Four Host First Nations Society (FHFN), this is exactly what the Vancouver 2010 Games will be – the world’s biggest Potlatch! The Games are being held within the traditional and shared territories of the Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, who have all been involved since early on in the bid process for the 2010 Games.
Since Vancouver was elected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in 2003, these Four First Nations have come together to coordinate their efforts around the Games, and have been an integral part of the planning process run by the Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee (VANOC). Olympic.org caught-up with Tewanee to ask him a few questions about the FHFN and the benefits the Games have brought to these Nations:
Olympic.org: Tell us a little bit about how the FHFN came into existence.
Tewanee Joseph: The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are being held within the traditional and shared traditional territories of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. The Nations recognised the significance of their involvement early on in the bid process, and are proud to have played an integral role in formulating and mounting the successful campaign to bring the 2010 Winter Games to Vancouver and Whistler.
On 24 November 2004, the chiefs and councils of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations entered into a historic Protocol Agreement, in which they agreed to coordinate their collective efforts to host and support the 2010 Winter Games. As a result, the Four Host First Nations Society was formed. The Four Host First Nations are proud to be one of the official hosts of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, marking the first time in history that Indigenous peoples have been recognised by the International Olympic Committee as Official Partners in the hosting of a Games.
Olympic.org: How have the Vancouver 2010 Games benefited the Four Host First Nations and Canadian Aboriginal peoples in general?
Tewanee Joseph: Aboriginal peoples are eager to be part of the Games: as athletes, artists, workers, performers and volunteers. We are witnessing a tidal wave of grass-roots enthusiasm. FHFN is working overtime to make Aboriginal participation the defining element of the Games. Making history, we will become the high-water mark for all future Games. They will have to be measured against our success.
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. We are convinced the Games can be transformational – not just for Aboriginal peoples, but for the non-Aboriginal people of this country. The Olympics are providing jobs and development to the Four Host Nations as well as other Aboriginal communities; some living in isolated rural areas recognise the Games as an economic stimulus package helping them during the economic downturn.
Olympic.org: What kind of legacy do you think these Games will leave for the FHFN and other Aboriginal peoples?
Tewanee Joseph: About CAD159 million will go directly to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. We call it the “best return on Aboriginal investment” senior governments will ever realise. More than 100 Aboriginal businesses will earn more than CAD 57 million in Games-related activities. Aboriginal youth have new jobs, new skills. Each of the Four Host Nations has received about CAD 17 million. This includes venues, programmes, services and the like. We estimate that, by Games time, 2,000 Aboriginal youth will be employed in Games-related activities. But, perhaps above all, we like to think we have developed a new model that can help Canada come to grips with longstanding, vexatious problems. Together, we can solve them.
Olympic.org: You often refer to the Vancouver Games as the world’s biggest Potlatch. What can visitors expect from the FHFN when they come to Vancouver this month?
Tewanee Joseph: 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. We are convinced the Games can be transformational – not just for Aboriginal peoples, but for the non-Aboriginal people of this country.