Monday, October 14, 2013

Living The New Economy - A Week of Events

The Living the New Economy event is coming up. Actually there are two such events coming up. One in Vancouver and one on Vancouver Island in Victoria. Some of the events at the conferences are by donation, and some require tickets to be purchased.
Living the New Economy in Victoria will feature Tetlas. Tetla founder Meaghie Champion will be speaking at event during the "Indigenomics" segment. Also tickets to the event can be purchased online with Tetlas by entering the discount code "TETLA" when buying tickets online. This will cause the money price to go to zero. You'll automatically receive an email confirmation and printable tickets attached to the email. You'll need to remember to bring the actual Tetlas to the registration desk at the event to pay for the ticket, but you will already have the ticket and not have to worry about whether they sell out before you get there. If you have only enough Tetlas to pay for part of the cost of the ticket, use the same code and print the tickets, just pay at the registration desk partly in Tetlas and partly with regular money.
There will also be a table where you can buy Tetla t-shirts and probably other things.
Here's a link to the website for the event in Victoria:
Here's an explanation from the event website explaining what they mean by the "New Economy".
The "New Economy" encompasses:

economic activities that bring the human economy into greater balance with our natural ecosystems;

a movement towards a more equitable economic arrangement for people and communities, including more collaborative and distributed forms of ownership and greater economic democracy;

the building of economic, physical and social resilience in local economies and communities;

the "sharing economy", which includes collaborative consumption and the restoration of a more human and social element to economic transactions and other economic activities;

and the use of new technologies, especially communications and internet-based technologies, to make all of the above possible in ways they haven't been before.

The New Economy cannot be reduced to a strategy or an "idea" to be considered, but is an emergent phenomenon that is being manifest in many different ways all over the world right now, in response to the rapidly changing economic, technological, social and ecological environments. The economy is being transformed, and the question for stakeholders is "Do we wish to be leaders in this transformation, or followers?"

Living the New Economy is co-hosted by the Healing Cities Institute – a not-for-profit society dedicated to making cities places that enhance our physical, social, mental and spiritual health, and the EcoDesign Resource Society – a charitable organization. Since cities are made up of people and few things impact our social and mental health more than money, exploring different dimensions and approaches to the economy is key to the diversity, sustainable prosperity and health of any community.
Living the New Economy will be held in Vic West, just across the Blue Bridge (Johnson Street Bridge) from Downtown Victoria. Here's the details
There are 20 events taking place over 7 days from November 29 to December 5, 2013. Here is the schedule of events:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Barter Auction Oct 21, 2013 7pm

Participate in the barter economy!

We'll be having a barter auction from 7pm to 9pm on October 21, 2013. The Community of Christ church has been kind enough to allow us to use the lower level of their church building as the venue for this event. The building is located at 495 Burnside Rd. E. It's atthe intersection of Burnside and Finlayson near the Mayfair Mall. There will be free parking in the church parking lot.

Bidding at the auction will be with Tetlas, green dollars or other pre-approved barter currencies. There will even be an experiment where you may be able to issue your own barter currency and use it to bid on and win items at the barter auction. If you are interesting in issuing your own currency, please contact us prior to the event.

In addition to the auction, you can buy or goods and services for barter currencies.

One dollar from each item or lot auctioned will go towards building or repairing homes on Indian Reserves. There will also be opportunities to make donations in Tetlas, green dollars, etc. to this project or to the Indigenous and Settler Allies Homemakers Association.

Some snacks will be made available for free. There will probably also be other snacks and food items for sale for barter currencies.

So bring your tetlas if you have any or open a free LETS barter account at and get 1,000 green dollars of free credit you can use to bid on items at the auction. Or look around your house or garage for that stuff you thought you would use when you bought it, but now is just taking up space. If it's worth something, you could auction it off and get Tetlas or green dollars you can spend in the barter economy. (Check out and click the tab that says, "Where Can You Spend Tetlas?" to see a list of local businesses that accept payment in Tetlas.) Please let us know in advance if you have something you want to auction off.

This is also a chance to meet other people who participate in the barter economy and be a part of building a new economy from scratch. This isn't just an auction. It isn't just a fundraiser. This is the seed of an economic transformation. That seed is already planted. Come watch it grow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tetla Home Building Project Kicks Off in a Good Way! New Coordinators for the Ed Seymour Build

Announcing - Bonnie Johnnie, as Volunteer Coordinator for the Ed Seymour home fix... Muriel Johnnie is going to be heading off to Chemainus in the next little while to get a handle on what needs to be done, and start pricing out the supplies and costs that will be involved. His Uncle, David Jack is a ticketed Roofer in Kuleet Bay and has also volunteered to help!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tetla Tsetsuwatil Advisory Council Announced

The Following People Comprise the Tetla Tsetsuwatil Advisory Council  as of this date, Aug 19th 2013.

Bonnie Johnnie - Build Volunteer Coordinator, Steve Alphonse - Cultural Consultant, Protocol and Community Relations
Ellen Cenname - Volunteer Coordinator, Community Relations, Photographer
Charlene Seymour-Joe - Language Instruction/ Hul'qumi'num Translation
Charles Rice - Construction, Carpentry, Training
Meaghie Champion - Communications, Public Relations
Krista Raphaelle - Perma-Culture Advisor
Nathan Moss- Religious & Global Outreach, De-Colonization Expert
Charles Champion - Financial & Accounting Advisor - Secretary Treasurer

(The following are not on the advisory board but still have volunteered to help out where they can)

Liason to Cowichan Tribes - Darin George (member of Council)
Josh Walker Youth representative

If you have an interest in serving on the board please contact any advisory council member and let us know. The Advisory Council meets once a month in person, and once a week on-line. We also need people who are not on the advisory council to be part of the Family Selection Nutsamaat. This work will involve reviewing application from prospective partner families, interviewing families and working together to achieve consensus on the choosing the families that will enter into partnerships with the Tetla Tsetsuwatil in building their family home.

Steve Alphonse and Meaghie Champion are also planning to work with Speaker and Elder Kwulthustun  or Suhilton (Willie Seymour) to develop a constitution in Hul'qumi'num. This constitution will be comprised of the teachings of our ancestors (Snuwuwyl) and will be the principles under which this advisory board will work together according to the values and principles that are consistent with our traditional culture and teachings.


The TetlaTsetsuwatil is now giving out t-shirts to those who donate at least $23 in money or tetlas. We plan to use the funds raised to go towards the housebuilding/repair project. Chemainus elder Ed Seymour has asked for help in repairing his roof.

 The t-shirts display the same salmon image as appears on Tetla gift certificates. It also has the words "I accept tetla. I accept  Indigenous Sovereignty." If you want one of these t-shirts, please email with your name, contact info such as phone number and/or email and your mailing address. Also the amount you would like to donate. Please state a preference for payment options such as cash, cheque, tetlas, etc. Also, we would need to know what size t-shirt you would prefer. If you need us to mail the shirt to you, we'll probably need to be reimbursed for shipping costs, but if you can pick it up in Esquimalt, there's no shipping costs.

Here's the t-shirt design:

First Paid Advertiser

We were very happy at Tetla News when we got our 50th subscriber. We have a few more than that now -- 68 direct subscribers and 131 more who receive Tetla News via the LETS news articles system. But we have passed another milestone that may be even more important. Our first paid advertizer!

Ok.. Some people don't like ads. We understand... BUT how many people have ads that offer you something for tetlas instead of money? None. Until now. And about the misleading ads. We don't plan to run ads like that here. Obviously we don't need ad revenue to keep Tetla News going because we've been doing it without ad revenue so far. So we can turn down ads that are not entirely honest. And we always will.

So here's the ad:

PJ Music Studios
Music lessons for all ages.
100% may be paid with tetlas or green dollars.


We have some experience with the quality of the music lessons offered by PJ Music Studio. Pam Smirl, the owner of PJ Music Studios, is also one of the music teachers there. She taught Douglas Champion to play part of Beethoven's 9th Symphony on the piano at age 6. If you hear some of the more advanced students play, you can't help but be impressed. Pam has two locations and quite a few teachers. They provide instruction for a wide variety of different musical instruments. We've read that learning to play music somehow makes children learn math easier. Douglas eventually lost interest in piano lessons, but it may not be a coincidence that he is ahead of other students his age in math and actually likes math. Though he has not even started 2nd grade yet, he has figured out how to do some multiplication and how to add fractions.

Thank you Pam for doing such a good job. And thank you for being the very first advertiser on Tetla News. For anyone out there with anything to sell for tetlas or green dollars, consider advertising with us. Ads here can of course be paid for entirely with tetlas or green dollars. The price at this point is however much you want to give us. We'll wait until we have at least two or three advertisers before we insist on any particular price.

Repairs to Home of Chemainus Elder Ed Seymour

The TetlaTsetsuwatil and the Fuller Center for Housing have choosen to help Stzumainus Elder Ed Seymour by fundraising for and carrying out repairs to his house, especially his roof and bathroom floor. This is the first project in the new effort between the Tetla Tsetsuwatil and the Fuller Center for Housing. Other projects will include not only repairs, but also construction of new housing carried out by partner families, similar to how Habitat For Humanity works. The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity were both founded by Millard Fuller and do the same kind of work.

                                                                    Ed Seymour

Holes in ceiling of Ed Seymour's home...

Alliance with Fuller Center to Build Houses Makes National News

On August 10, 2013, the Tetla Tsetsuwatil signed a partnership covenant with the FullerCenter for Housing. The covenant document sets forth the underlying principles that will guide the two organizations as they work together to build and repair homes to alleviate the housing crisis on Indian Reserves. One of the principles is that neither the Fuller Center nor the Tetla Tsetsuwatil accepts any funding from any government.

Melissa Merrill signs the Covenant between Tetla and The Fuller Center

Meaghie Champion shakes Elder Ed Seymour's hand at the signing ceremony...

The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity were both founded by Millard Fuller and both build affordable housing for people who otherwise could not afford a home. The Fuller Center has constructed over 1,700 homes so far in 16 countries and Habitat for Humanity has built millions of homes all over the world. Yet this is the first time that either organization has been involved in constructing housing on an Indian Reserve in Canada.

The Fuller Center is a non-profit organization based in the town of Americus, Georgia in the United States. This is the first time they have been involved in any project north of the border.

The signing of the covenant was reported by the local newspaper, the Cowichan Valley Citizen. The story was then picked up by affiliated newspapers nationwide across Canada.

Here's a link to the website of the Fuller Center for Housing:

Here's a link to the Fuller Center's article on this:

Here's a link to the Cowichan Valley Citizen newspaper article:

Here's a link to the same article on

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Solar Power in the Big House

The Tetla Tsetsuwatil has begun exploring the feasibility of installing solar panels on the roof of the Clemclemaluts Thi Lelum (Clem Clem Big House) with the objective of generating enough electricity so that there will be no more bills from BC Hydro. Those working on the project will learn a bit about how to install solar panels. We've heard that a similar project for the Sooke big house was very successful. A meeting will take place on August 24 to share the project vision with Clem Clem peoples and discuss strategy for fundraising.

Notes for non-native allies: Clemclemaluts is a place and a tribe of people. Clemclemaluts is one of the Cowichan tribes. In the Hul'qumi'num language, "thi lelum" means "big house".  A thi lelum is a large building used for traditional ceremonies. In earlier times, these buildings were also used as residences, often housing more than one family. Today, most or maybe all Coast Salish communities have a big house for ceremonies in the Winter months. There is usually also an adjacent "cook house" containing a large kitchen and a single large room where a hundred or more people can share a meal or hold community meetings or other events.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wolf Costume for Halloween

There is a little boy who until recently was always talking about dinosaurs. But for the past few months, he has found something much more interesting to him than that. The new fascinating creatures: wolves. So he wants to be a wolf for halloween. Since there are usually not wolf costumes for sale at halloween, his mother, Meaghie Champion is now seeking someone to teach her how to sew and help make a halloween costume for her seven year old son, Douglas. This would be in exchange for tetlas of course.

If anyone knows how to sew and wants to help, call 778-440-1102.

(Edit: Thanks to Sabina Chatterjee. See you on Friday [9/13/2013])

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tetlas on CTV

Tetlas are on TV again. Today, CTV British Columbia News did a segment on Tetlas. It was one of three in  "First Story." It followed a piece on the renaming of Mt. Douglas "Pkols" which is the traditional name.

Here's a link to the CTV piece:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Shaw TV Story on Tetlas and Language Classes

Shaw TV has done a story on Tetlas and the Hul'qumi'num language classes the Tetla Project helps support. It airs today on Shaw Channel 4. Here's a link to the video:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Plants for Snuwuyth Lelum

There's going to be a plant sale at Fernwood Square in Lekwungen territory to raise funds for Snuwuyth (Snuwuylh) Lelum

All plant sales will be by donation (so you could donate tetlas or cash) and all donations will go to Snuwuyth Lelum.

Thank you to Krista Raphaelle for making this happen.

More information is available on Facebook at:

Plants available include:

1000 year old tobacco
German chamomile
Jack o' Lantern pumpkin
pole peas
beans- Black Coco, Pinto, Derby, Orca
swiss chard
fresh cut herbs
and more.....

What the Tetla Economy Needs Now

Here are a few things that would really help grow the tetla economy. If you know someone who is in any of these businesses or would like to be, please suggest that they check out the tetla website at and get in touch with the Tetla Tsetsuwatil using the contact info on the website.

* Hair stylist or barber
* Auto mechanic
* Gas station
* Restaurant
* Grocery Store
* Native artists

People like these would be certain to get more customers if they allowed payment 100% in tetlas and might get some if they would accept any portion of their price in tetlas.

Native Art For Sale For Tetlas At May 20 Event

The May 20 Snuwuyth Lelum Dinner and Information Night mentioned in the previous article will include native artwork for sale. If you have any tetlas, bring them as at least part of the price for such items can be paid for in tetlas.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Snuwuyth Lelum Dinner and Information Night -- May 20

Come out with friends and family! May 20, 2013. 6:30 pm. Esquimalt big house.

We are trying to build a big house to house Willie Seymour's dream of the Snuwuyth Lelum project. Snuwuyth Lelum is a project designed to give all people an opportunity to learn about the language and culture of Coast Salish / Hul'qumi'num speaking peoples. It's for residential school survivors, foster children, '60's scoop babies to connect with their language and culture in a way that is healing and positive for them and for the communities they belong to.

Tom Swanky will be giving a presentation on the book he has written about how smallpox was deliberately used to infect our people so that our lands could be stolen more easily by the settlers and government.

Everyone is welcome to the dinner and we welcome any and all support for the project.

If you would like to start learning the Hul'qumi'num language, please contact Meaghan Champion for the first two lectures that are now available in MP3 format. Email: or call 778-440-1102.

The Esquimalt big house is located right next to the Esquimalt Nation Administration office which is at
1189 Kosapsum Crescent
Victoria BC V9A 7K7

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Article in Cowichan Valley Citizen

Recently, there was an article (article here) in the Cowichan Valley Citizen newspaper about the Tetla Tsetsuwatil's Hul'qumi'num Language and Cultural Immersion Program.

Twenty-six people attended! It was awesome and we raised almost half the resources needed for the next session, which will hopefully be taking place in the next two weeks. Exact dates to be posted soon! Soon, we plan to offer the classes in Chemainus or Nanaimo, Cowichan, Mill Bay and Victoria (but only if we can also teach the Senchothen language).

Here's a picture of the event!!:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Garage Sale Accepting 50% Tetlas

Today, Sunday, April 28, 2013, Sarah Flynn is holding a garage sale starting at 9:30 am this morning at 1516 Pembroke St. in Fernwood. She has said that 50% of the cost of anything for sale at the garage sale may be paid with tetlas (or with green dollars from the LETS barter system).

There are ads on used victoria and craigslist under events/garage sales and people can use her address or Fernwood to search.  Lots of the stuff for sale is listed in the ads.  Sarah's phone number is 250-995-3158 if anyone has questions.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Community Currency Workshop

Hi Folks!

The next Community Currency Workshop will take place this Saturday, April 27, 1:00-4:45pm.  The workshop is free.  Location this week will be the Sunset Room at 401 Herald St. in Victoria. (Thanks Jason Guille!).  All future workshops will be at the regular location, at Community Micro Lending Gathering Place.

See below for background information and details of this Saturday's meeting. RSVP Here. If you'd like more information please contact the facilitator, Jordan Bober,

Hope to see you there,

Geoff, Nicole and Jordan


Event Details

This is the third in a series of community currency workshops being hosted as a collaboration between community currency developers from the Comox Valley (Michael Linton and Ernie Yacub of Community Way Dollars) and Vancouver (Jordan Bober of Seedstock Community Currency) together with the organisers of Living the New Economy, a week-long convergence of people and ideas around the new economy that debuted in Vancouver in November 2012 and will be returning to Vancouver in October 2013 and coming to Victoria Nov. 29-Dec. 5 this year.
In our previous gatherings in Victoria on March 23rd and April 13th, Michael, Jordan and Ernie engaged participants in discussions that explored the nature of money, the theory and practice of community currencies, why community currencies are among the most powerful tools we can apply towards positive economic and social change in our communities, and the very practical ways in which community currencies can unleash community resources in Victoria. We have been joined by Meaghan and Charles Champion of the local Tetla Dollar community currency project (, which launched last year and is quickly expanding with over 35 participating businesses so far in the Victoria area (see this recent article about the Tetla in the Times-Colonist).
We would like to invite anyone with an interest in learning more about community currencies and applying this learning hands-on to participate in our next gathering on April 13th (please note that this time we will be meeting at the Sunset Room at 401 Herald Street, NOT the Community Microlending Gathering Place as previously - many thanks to Jason Guille, owner of the Sunset Room and participant in our gatherings, for arranging this for us!).
Our next workshop will be divided into two different segments. We encourage you to attend both as there is much to be learned, but if you are only able to attend one segment, please feel free to do so.
Here is the planned agenda for our next meeting:
1pm to 3pm: For the first two hours, we will take an in-depth look at the Tetla Dollar, a community currency already operating in the Victoria area. Together with the Tetla's founders, participants will apply their collective intelligence to thinking about how the Tetla can grow its reach and impact rapidly. What community needs can the Tetla address most effectively?
3pm to 4:45pm: In the last half of our gathering, we will begin developing practical strategy around another idea that has emerged from our previous workshops - a community currency focussed on health and wellness Victoria. We have identified exciting potential in this area, and between the participants of previous workshops we have the skills, resources and networks to implement such a currency relatively quickly. 
We hope to see you there! Please spread the word to any of your friends and contacts who are interested in overcoming traditional barriers to the mobilisation of community resources towards the common good.
For more information, please contact Jordan Bober at
This workshop is free, but donations are welcome to help cover the travel expenses of the out-of-town workshop facilitators. 
Hosted by:
Hosted by

Hul'qumi'num Language Immersion Program Starts

The Tetla Tsetsuwatil has organized a Hul'qumi'num Language and Cultural Immersion Experience for native and non-native children from homeschooling families in the Cowichan Valley, Duncan BC. 

Willie Seymour will be providing language instruction. The first session will be in Lake Quamichan Park on April 26, 2013.

If you would like to participate in or help the Tetla Project please visit for more info.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tetlas in the Times Colonist Newspaper

An article on Tetlas ran in the Times Colonist newspaper on April 17, 2013. It was on the front page of the business section.

Here it is:

Please note that despite what it says in the link, Tetlas are NOT issued by or endorsed by the Esquimalt First Nation. Tetlas were briefly discussed with Chief Andy Thomas last year, but Meaghan Champion, the founder of the Tetla Tsetsuwatil, is from the Somena Nation, not the Esquimalt Nation. The confusion may arise from the fact that she currently lives in Esquimalt. The Somena Nation is often considered one of the Cowichan Tribes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tetlas on TV

There's a TV show that includes a segment about tetlas that's going to be on tomorrow (Sunday March 17, 2013) and seven times during the course of the following week.

Meaghie Champion was interviewed by Jack Etkin, the host of a TV show called Citizen Forum on Shaw cable channel 4.

The interview was taped a few days ago and seemed to go very well. The web address of the tetla website (at was mentioned prominently. Here's the schedule of when it's going to be on:

On Channel 4 in Victoria and Saltspring
Sunday (March 17, 2013) at 10:00 AM and 9:30 PM
Monday (March 18, 2013) at 11:00 PM
Tuesday (March 19, 2013) at 5:00 PM
Thursday (March 20, 2013) at 4:00 PM
Saturday (March 21, 2013) at 11:30 AM and 11 PM
If you don't see it when it's on TV, you'll be able to see it on the internet.

More Than Protesting

More Than Protesting
What Can Be Done

By Meaghie Champion

We've protested and we've protested. The protests have gotten larger and more frequent, but still there has been very little response from the Canadian government. They haven't even repealed bill C-45. Many of us are asking, "What more can we do?"

There are some ideas. Block more highways? More ferry terminals? More railroads? Blockade the border crossings? Occupy government buildings? Build a village in the path of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline? Build a village on the lawn of the parliament building? More hunger strikes? Something even more confrontational?

Idle No More has grown from four women and a twitter account into a major international movement. We haven't gotten the Canadian government to do anything except another pointless meeting. Yet we have the attention of the media and the public in Canada and large parts of the rest of the world. United Nations officials have publicly advised Canada to deal with us fairly.

We have made history already, but at this point, we need a strategy for what to do next. Many of us could and would keep protesting day after day for years if necessary, but we might not hold the attention of the world if we do. We probably could not keep the number of people participating in the protests going up unless there is some sign that we are going somewhere with this. Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems determined to give no indication that anything will ever really change.

He'll meet with chiefs. He'll say some words to the media. But he is doing what governments usually do when faced with opposition: refuse to admit they have ever made any mistake in their entire lives and carry on.

One reason they can get away with this is that the whole idea of a political struggle between protestors and government is completely one-sided in favor of the government. To keep the protests going, the Idle No More movement has to mobilize and coordinate thousands of protestors to keep holding protests. It is a significant effort. What does government have to do? A few guys raised their hands to vote for C-45. That's all. If thousands of people protest for months sometimes in freezing weather, risking arrest, the government might, maybe, repeal bill C-45. Or part of it so they don't have to admit the whole thing was a mistake. Then, when the protestors go away, they can just pass it again under a new name. They have to raise their hands one time. We have to mobilize thousands of people for months.

There's a reason they think they can outlast us. Protesting only brings victory if the government gives in and does something. Government doesn't have to convince us to do anything. They can vote for bills and we can't stop them. They can implement the bills and we can protest while they implement them anyway.

We need a strategy that reverses this. What if protestors were not trying to get the government to take action? What if, instead, the protestors themselves were carrying out the action we want done? Then, if the government did what it usually does and just waited for the protestors to go away, the protestors win. We would have successfully carried out what we wanted done.

Whether this is much of a victory depends a lot on what the protestors want done and how long we can keep doing it. After all, the protestors can't protest all day every day. Eventually people have to go home. People have to go to work or go to school or take care of their kids. Regular life calls.

Government officials are getting paid to do what they do. They can do it all day every working day. Protestors are taking time away from the things they normally do. Protestors are suspending their normal life to oppose government. Government officials carry on regardless because what they are doing IS their normal life. The way this works almost guarantees that the government can just wait and the protestors will go away. Maybe a few homeless activists can camp out somewhere 24/7, but not hundreds of people or thousands or more.

We need to change this situation. To do this, we need two things:

1) We need a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win.
2) We need a way that protests can continue all day, every working day.

The way to change things so that we win if the government ignores the protests is for protestors to do something that accomplishes our main objective instead of asking government to do it.

What is the most important objective that aboriginal rights activists can accomplish? The repeal of bill C-45? No. The government can just wait a few years and pass a new bill. Or pass it in bits and pieces hidden in other bills. What we need to repeal is their ability to decide what the law is in our territory.

We are told that they have the right to pass laws because they are the government. We are told that we have to obey laws because we are the citizens. Yet it was not so long ago that our people were told we were not citizens of Canada. Why not? Because we were part of other nations -- our own nations. Nations do not pass laws for other nations to obey. No matter how large or how small, nations make their own decisions. This is a principle of international law called sovereignty.

Before the non-natives came here, our nations had sovereignty over the lands and waters here that are now called our traditional territory. They were our sovereign territory. The non-natives say that ever since they arrived, our nations do not exist any longer. How did that happen? Did we surrender? No. There was no surrender. There wasn't even a war. Not here. Not on Vancouver Island or anywhere in BC. Was there a treaty? Did we agree to give them our lands and let them rule over us and call this place part of Canada? No. When did our nations go out of existence? When did this land stop being ours? Ask the elders. I have heard their answer. The answer is "never". The lands are still ours. Our nations still exist. We still have sovereignty over our traditional territory. That means it doesn't matter what bills they pass in Ottawa. Nobody in Ottawa has the power to make laws that we must obey. If they try to force us to obey their laws in our territory, they are the criminals, not us.

Of course, the government and the police and the newspapers say differently. They say this is part of Canada and maybe native people should get more money or something for losing their land, but it's gone and it's too late to undo that. The truth is that the non-natives have not "taken our land." The land is still there. The land is still ours. They just built things on it. Even if we let them get away with that, they do not have any right to tell us what to do on our own land. They may say they got the land in the Douglas Treaties. Read the treaties. Nobody ever gave them permission to rule us.

So how do we get them to stop ruling us? The answer is to start doing what's right according to our own traditions and ignore their laws. This is why we blockade highways. Their law says it's a highway and the public can drive on it. Our law says it's still our land and people shouldn't drive on it without our permission. Sometimes we revoke that permission just to make the point. It's an important point to make. Especially since it gets attention for a vitally important issue. But it gets attention because it causes problems for people. Ordinary non-native people are inconvenienced when we block highways they're trying to drive on. Some of them may sympathize with our cause, but it is a problem for them. If we chose different laws to ignore, we could do things that would be good for them instead of inconvenient for them. For example, the Canadian government used to admit that it had no right to tax us. Now, more and more, they are finding ways to tax us. Non-natives often say we should pay taxes "like everybody else".

The law should treat people fairly. There is no good reason why some people are forced to pay taxes and others are exempt in the same jurisdiction. Natives didn't create this situation. The government of Canada created this situation. They created this situation by trying to impose their laws on sovereign aboriginal nations. They haven't quite gotten away with taxing the native people as much as they want, but they have gotten away with taxing the non-natives in the territory of aboriginal nations. The truth is that if a place is the sovereign territory of Canada, and Canada imposes a tax that is legal and moral, then everyone should pay the tax. It is also true that if a place is the sovereign territory of some other nation, that Canada has no authority to impose any taxes or laws on anyone there.

That is just as true whether the other nation is the United States or the Haida Nation or the Six Nations. The attitude of non-natives will change if they find that instead of arguing that we should get a special privilege of not paying taxes in Canada that we are arguing that this place isn't part of Canada and nobody has to pay taxes here.

If the struggle is natives versus non-natives, we are horribly outnumbered. If the struggle is natives and our non-native friends and everybody who'd rather not pay taxes against a few people in the government and their cronies, then we will outnumber them. If that happens, we will win. Not in 50 years. Not in 10 years. Much sooner. Every law, tax and regulation of theirs that is not enforced in our territory is a victory for us. This is how they will lose the power to write laws to rule us with.

So there is a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win. If we ignore their laws and they ignore us, they aren't ruling us anymore and we win. That's item one on the list. Let's consider item two.

1) We need a way that if the government ignores the protests, then we win.
2) We need a way that protests can continue all day, every working day.

Thinking about the way to make it possible for protestors to continue every day and never go away, I look at the government. The government never just gives up and goes away. Why not? Because the law establishes a government? That's not the reason. The government keeps going even when it's breaking the law. I think the main reason people working for the government keep doing what they do is simply because it's their job. They get paid to do it.

Maybe we can find a way to make protesting our job and get paid to do it. Here's how. We find something that is a regular job, but one that the government says you need their permission to do. Then we do it without their permission.

For example, catching fish and selling them. Or selling native handicrafts by the side of the road. It could be anything. Carpentry work. Cutting peoples' hair for money. Cleaning houses for money. Gardening, junk hauling, making pizzas and selling them, offering native tours to tourists, canoe rides for tourists, running bingo games to fundraise for elders needs or other worthy causes. Driving people in an informal taxi-service, running a 50/50 raffle, etc. It could be anything economic in nature. The government says you need their permission to do any of these things unless you do them entirely on an Indian Reserve. Some of them, they say you have to get their permission and follow their rules and pay them money even if you are doing it entirely on an Indian Reserve. They need a reminder of whose territory this is.

They don't call it begging for permission to earn a living. They call it applying for a municipal business license if you are in a city or registering your business with the province even if you're not in a city. You might think that just making and selling native art isn't a business. It's just an artist working. The government says even if you are just working to earn a living by yourself, that's still a business and you must ask for permission. Even just to make and sell native art.

Not only that, you must pay $70 for the cheapest way to get that permission. Another $100 or so every year if you ever do business with anyone who lives in a city. If you are actually earning enough to pay the bills for yourself and your family, they will say you now have to work for them as a tax collector. You will be required to collect sales tax from every customer, even if the extra cost drives away some of your customers. You must fill out papers and send them to the government. You also have to pay tax on your own income in many cases, even if you are an Indian. If  you live off reserve or if you do work off reserve or you deliver products off reserve or if you're not a status Indian or if your chief and council agreed to a treaty that lets the government tax you even though you are a status Indian on reserve, then the government says you owe part of every dollar you make to them.

What if the next time we show up at a shopping mall and do a round dance and sing and drum, we also bring things to sell and sell them there without permission from the government or the people running the shopping mall and without collecting or paying any taxes? Of course, we would choose a shopping mall that was built on native land where there either is no treaty or where the treaty has been broken by the government. It would also be appropriate to obtain permission in advance from the true owners of the land where the event will be held. Not who Canadian law says the owners are. Get permission from whoever ancient aboriginal traditions say is the real owner or authority over that land where the shopping center was built. Not the chief and council unless they are also the traditional authorities.

I realize that there will be objections to trying to make money at an Idle No More protest. Or any protest. There are people who tell us this is not appropriate at a protest. Maybe it wasn't before, but I am suggesting we should make it a strategic goal of the protests to create sustainable economic activities in defiance of the "colonial" authorities. Before I explain why this is an important strategic objective that the Idle No More protests could achieve, I first want to talk about some common ideas about money and economics and how they relate to our traditions.

Some people tell us that Indians were not materialistic and owned very little or owned everything collectively as a tribe. There are people who will tell us that earning money is something corrupt that we learned from the non-natives. Some people tell us that being Indian means being poor. Well, nowadays, being Indian usually does mean being poor. That's not tradition. That's what's been done to us. It may be true that some aboriginal peoples had very few material possessions. Nomadic hunters of the plains had little use for more possessions than they could carry with them as they followed the buffalo herds. That was fine for them, but they're not nomadic anymore. Most aboriginal people on this continent were not nomadic in the first place. Here in Coast Salish territory and all the nearby territories on the coast, people lived in permanent settlements and they were not poor. They were prosperous. They could even be described as wealthy. They did own property and land and fishing grounds. Not collectively as a tribe but individually or as a family. And yes, we were, and still are, a bit materialistc. Not like the Europeans. In Coast Salish culture, people did not ordinarily go hungry because they were poor. Wealth served a different function in society. Because of the "potlatch" system, people gained more by giving things away than by hoarding wealth like greedy fat-cat bankers of today's financial crises. The most honoured people or si'em, were wealthy, but wealth alone did not make you a si'em. A si'em also used wealth to help their friends and relatives. Our economy worked very differently from those in Europe, but it did work and it worked very well and sustainably for a very long time. Thousands of years. In other areas, other aboriginal nations may have different traditions, but theirs also worked for them. We were not the only prosperous people.

Working, trading with others, even those far away, as well as earning and using wealth the Coast Salish way are an important part of our tradition. We even invented several different kinds of money before the Europeans ever showed up. A particular kind of seashell found only in deep water was one kind of money we used. Hand woven blankets especially those made with mountain goat wool were another. Pieces of copper were also used at times. And then there's also wampum from our Eastern Brothers and sisters. In Canada, many universities teach a Marxist view of economics and history. Karl Marx had some important insights, but he was a European in Europe and his ideas are part of European culture, not ours. The economic system he called capitalism was also a European thing and there was really no parallel to it here until the Europeans brought it with them. The Marxist view is a universalist view that is supposed to apply to the whole world. My Coast Salish view is that the whole Marxist versus Capitalist struggle is a struggle within European culture for reasons that are distinctly their own. Lenin reworked Marxist ideas to identify capitalism with European colonialists such as those we had here and to identify native resistance in various parts of the world with Marxism. These were popular ideas in the 20th century, but they are still European ideas invented by Europeans in Europe. Lenin was not an Indian. He was a European. The idea that aboriginal people oppressed by a capitalist system imported from Europe need to have solidarity with other poor people and replace the capitalist system with socialism in order to achieve freedom and prosperity is an argument for assimilation.

Regardless of whether capitalism or socialism or some mixture of the two is better, they are all part of European culture and giving up our own traditions to adopt these is assimilation and means the end of our culture. Why should we be talking about Marxism and a Marxist view of our history? Why aren't Europeans talking about Coast Salish economics and a Coast Salish view of their history? Maybe they really should. Just once to get a very different viewpoint. There is a lot that could be learned.

One thing we can learn is that this idea that money is the root of all evil and any kind of economic activity besides socialism is morally wrong comes from a foreign culture that doesn't even know how our economic system works. We are also flooded with newer ideas that long-distance trade is only possible because of fossil fuels that are horribly destructive and unsustainable and we simply must reduce all economic activity to local biospheres. Maybe European-derived cultures don't know this, but the Coast Salish people carried out long distance trade with many other nations for thousands of years before fossil fuels were even discovered. Early European explorers reported that our people already had iron knives. They assumed we got them from other Europeans, but recently scientists studied one of those old knives and proved that it came originally from Japan. If this is surprising, it is only due to how little our culture is understood. They still call our ships "canoes". They were sailing ships larger than those used by Columbus. We traded with Japan. Back when the Roman Empire still ruled most of Europe, you could travel from Vancouver Island to Hawaii and on to the Marquesas Islands 3,000 miles away all by sailing ship and never run into anyone who had even heard of Europeans. Long distance trade can be very sustainable and mutually beneficial and does not have to involve multinational corporations running everything. We know what we're talking about. We've done this stuff for a long time.

So I say all this to try to clear away the European mindset so that as soon as I talk about work and money, that it doesn't sound like I'm saying we're going to have capitalism and we should be happy just to have jobs. That's not even remotely what I'm talking about. When I refer to "jobs" I mean opportunities to work and earn money or profit by barter. I mean mutually beneficial transactions for everyone that create more wealth, not transfer wealth unfairly from one person to another. I mean mutually beneficial trade, not "expropriating the products of the labour of the working class".

In Coast Salish society traditionally all sorts of economic societies existed in order to preserve different aspects of the culture. Some of these economic societies were strictly religous or spiritual in nature. But there were also economic societies that existed for mutual aid and protection. Marriages in Coast Salish culture were arranged institutions to allow all families participating the ability to increase their trade routes and trading power and increase military alliances for mutual self-defence from our enemies from the north.

But getting back to the point at hand. I am not talking about people getting "McJobs" and being happy about it. I mean self-employment and work within traditional groups called "tsetsuwatil" in our language. I mean being competent to negotiate deals and trade, to create and carry out economic activities for yourself and for your family and your extended family of families just like our ancestors did. I don't mean being a low paid employee of some huge corporation. I mean rebuilding our economy our way, the way we have done it successfully for thousands of years. We were not just primitve "hunter-gatherers" barely one step up from cave-men and the most important aspects of our economy work as well or better with higher technology than they did in earlier times. That's why the colonial authorities outlawed "potlatch" ceremonies and confiscated all property used in them. Until we were poor, they could not hope to dominate us. So they destroyed our economy.

In a very real sense, trying to brainwash generations of Aboriginal children (regardless of their actual historical culture) into believing that it's some sort of virtue for "All Indians" to be poor, is a horrific sort of oppression in and of itself. It's one of the ways that the colonial regime has kept our people oppressed for so long. We have been told over and over again that the only kind of economic activity that the courts will recognize as needing to be protected are those that result in only subsistence. Not commerce. The reality is however, Coast Salish people engaged in commerical fishing for thousands of years. We smoked huge amounts of fish and other seafoods and then traded it for scarce commodities from our relatives and trade partners in the interior.

No nation can sustain itself or even survive without a functioning economy. When we had it, we were very strong. When it was destroyed, we became weak. Until we rebuild it, we will remain weak. If we don't rebuild it our way, if we look to European models of capitalism or socialism or democratic socialism or mixed market or free market or any of that and ignore our own economic traditions... we will have already been assimilated.

It will take a lot of creativity and a lot of work, but we could take the protests to the next level this way. It could start with selling some handicraft items to shoppers at a mall. It could grow to where we occupy a strip by the side of the road and set up tents and tables and have our own mall. Like we do at modern pow wows. Or we could offer to sell services tax-free to anyone and refuse to get any kind of permission or pay or charge any kind of tax. We could temporarily occupy a park that is really native land and set up a table for each such "business" and invite the public, native and non-natives both to come learn what economic activities we are doing and see if they want to hire us to mow their lawns, clean their houses, paint their houses or if they want to buy anything we have made or grown or cooked that we have for sale.

We can also have dances and drumming and signs to protest what the government has done wrong and is continuing to do wrong. But we won't just be trying to get the government to give in and treat us fairly. We will be removing their laws from our territory. If they write a law, but it's not enforced, it's just a piece of paper. We will also be building our own economy in our own territory. We don't have to do it their way. We don't have to be greedy or mistreat people or destroy the environment. We don't have to operate "businesses" that exist only to make a profit or "corporations" that do the same, often on a larger scale. Did we have these things in the past? Are they our tradition? In the hul'qumi'num language of the Coast Salish people, we have the word "tsetsuwatil". It means "working together" or "helping one another". It's still work. It can still involve money, though traditionally it was often done with barter. There can be profit, but the idea is that everyone who participates benefits. It is not easy to define the difference, but there is a different spirit to it.

Some people's idea of "business" is to trick customers into thinking they are getting a benefit when they aren't. Or to do huge, long-term damage to the environment to get a short term profit for a very few. Or to build expensive houses on native land, sell them to non-natives and leave the natives living in decrepit houses, never asking for permission for the use of their land nor paying them anything for it. Or getting a license from the government to carry on a highly profitable business -- like banking -- that other people can't do because they don't have the license, then using the profits to hire a lobbyist to make it even harder for anyone else to be in that business. Those kinds of things may be "business", but they are defnitely not tsetsuwatil and never will be.

The beautiful thing about using tsetsuwatil as a protest strategy is that when it works, we can do it every day. It can be our "job". It can pay our bills. We won't ever go away. It can be very non-confrontational. It doesn't have to be done in a shopping mall or a public park where the government can pretend we don't have a right to be there. After it gets going, we could pay to use places if necessary or set up tsetsuwatil markets on reserves if enough shoppers will come there. We could work our way up to more ambitious projects. I don't know what, but huge potlatch type activities, perhaps. Internet activities? Our own shopping malls? Manufacturing? Organic farming to provide alternatives to factory farms and genetically modified foods? Shipbuilding, possibly ships that don't use fossil fuels? I don't know what will work, but all sorts of things are possible. If we can succeed on a small scale, we can start to succeed on a larger scale. We could even earn enough money to buy back lands that the government says don't belong to us anymore. They'll admit it's our land if we have a title deed. Then we can sue the government for the price we paid to buy our own land back. Whether we win or lose the lawsuit, we still get the keep the land.

One of the best things about Idle No More is how it has brought out non-native protestors to help us. Tsetsuwatil can mean natives and non-natives working together for mutual benefit. There is no reason non-natives would not support us building our own economy using the ideas of tsetsuwatil. Many will prefer to buy from us just to help our cause. They are the sort of people who are already supporting our protests. Even people who don't support our protests would still like to buy things without paying sales tax. We can help them. Tsetsuwatil is not about any kind of confrontation. It is about helping one another. Who could this approach possibly harm?

People who are on our land and paid to be there, but never paid us? We don't have to go into their shopping malls if they don't want us to. But having our events in their malls probably draws more shoppers into the mall than they would otherwise have. That helps them. If we start buying out non-natives to get our land back, that puts lots of money in their hands and drives up the prices of "their" real estate. They profit from it. They don't lose.

Who else could be harmed? Businesses that collect sales tax and sell the same things we might sell without sales tax? Maybe. But only if they keep collecting the government's tax. The native authorities can give them permission to stop. It's our territory. Canada doesn't actually have the authority to impose taxes here anyway. Not without our permission. That's what sovereignty means.

Idle No More protestors using a tsetsuwatil strategy would be helping everyone. Even the Canadian government. It doesn't seem like it. It seems like a tsetsuwatil strategy that ignores the government's laws undermines the government's authority and reduces their tax revenue. But in fact, this is only true on unceded aboriginal territory or territory ceded by sovereign native authorities where the treaties have been broken. Canada does not actually have any right to exert authority or collect taxes in these areas. Not legally. Not morally. What Canada does have is an enormous political mess that it has not been able to solve. The people of Canada, by a huge majority, want to do the right thing. They want to be good people. They want the world to see them as good people. They want the natives to see them as good people. How can this be when they have broken the treaties, treated our people terribly, built on land, especially British Columbia, where there was never any treaty? How can they ever look us in the eyes and say they are our friends? Can they say that to the residential school survivors? The baby scoop kids? Those who were taken away to foster care and abused and neglected while under the care of the Canadian government? When they see a clearcut forest where we used to hunt and harvest cedar bark, when they read that the Pacific Salmon is in danger of extinction, when they remember the herds of buffalo that used to roam the plains, how can they look us in the eye? When another native child of the new generation -- our only hope for the future -- commits suicide because Canada has left her no hope, how can the non-natives look us in the eye and say they are our friends? How can they tell themselves they have done the right thing. How can they believe they are good people?

A lot of them don't know what to do and therefore don't want to think about it. Sometimes when they do think about it, the whole situation makes them angry. They don't want to be bad people, they refuse to accept that they or their family or their country has done anything wrong, so they look for ways to blame the Indians and direct that  anger towards us. It is all because they don't know how they could ever possibly make it right.

We can give them back what they have lost. Something more precious than lands. More valuable than money. We can show them the way to make it right.

We will rebuild our nations. We will make jobs for ourselves in our own way. We will relearn our native languages and continue our ancient traditions. We will prosper again as we did in the past. We will not be poor. We will buy back our land if we have to. Non-native people can be part of this, as residents of our nations, not occupiers. All we need to do is go work on it. All the government needs to do for us to create a solution to their "Indian problem", is stay out of our way. So far, the government has been staying out of the way of the Idle No More protests. If they keep doing that, and we do tsetsuwatil like this, we win. Everyone wins. They may not think of it as a victory at first. They may not like seeing native traditions and laws replacing their own in large parts of the land they call Canada. They may not like our nations being autonomous or even having the right to decide whether to be completely independent. But if Canada can allow Quebec to preserve its own language and culture and decide for itself whether to be an independent country, it must allow aboriginal nations the same right. And it is our right. It is a right called "the right of self-determination of peoples". Virtually every nation in the world acknowledges this right. It is mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations. Every year on November 11, Canadians wear red poppies. This is to commemorate November 11, 1918, the end of the Great War. One of the principles that so many Canadians, British, French and Americans fought for in that war was "the right of self-determination of peoples". The same right that says the aboriginal people have a right to self-determination, the right to be sovereign nations if we choose to. Canadian soldiers were told they were fighting and dying to preserve that right for all peoples, for all time, in a war that was so big and so terrible that they thought it would be "the war to end all wars". It was not the last war. The right to self-determination of peoples has been violated many times since. But Canada can at least uphold that principle today where it has the power to do so. Canada can be the good guys. We can show them how. Tsetsuwatil.

Despite all that has happened, there is almost no talk of revenge amongst aboriginal people. There is almost no talk of forcibly evicting non-natives from lands even where they have no lawful right to be there. We do not want to give up our lands, not a single acre, but if our ownership were admitted, we would be generous to those who have built their homes and their lives here and are our neighbors. We might let them stay there, rent-free for their entire lives or for three generations or for 100 years. We might ask only a token amount of rent or none at all. If we have to buy back our lands and sue the government for the price we had to pay, we don't have to be paid right away. We don't have to charge interest on the debt. Maybe, when we have regained control of all our lands and waters, when our nations are restored to full health. When our languages and traditions are thriving throughout our territories and we are prospering, when many years have passed and the government has treated us fairly for a long time and paid diligently on the debt their own courts ruled that they owe us... maybe we will even forgive that debt as we forgive our other friends and relatives for their mistakes.

Our greatest gift to Canadians will be to mend the wound in their soul that is ripped open all over again every time the Canadian government adds a new abuse or injustice to the record of their relationship with us. The Canadian government does not see how it could ever afford to pay us enough money to be able to keep lands that we would not sell for any price. The Canadian government does not see any way to help us prosper except to assimilate us and we keep telling them to stop the assimilation and let us be ourselves. The Canadian government sees this as a conflict between natives and non-natives or at least between the natives and the government. We can show them we are building a solution that will work for them and for us. We won't need their permission. We just need them to keep ignoring us and hoping we go away. Like they are doing now.