No'ilung Si'em 'i' sche'le'chu,
Sinoopun tsunu sne'
Si'em, friends and relatives, my ancestral name is Sinoopun. My family name is Andrew Thomas
and I am the Hereditary Chief – through my great, great, great Grandfather Sisunuq
– of the Esquimalt First Nation.
The Esquimalt Nation is a small nation on the water of Esquimalt Harbour. Our traditional name is
Xwsepsum, also written Kosapsum. Our connection with the land and the resources of our once
large territory goes back thousands of years. In that time, we have learned to live in a finely balanced
relationship with the seasons and the tides that have sustained us. And we repaid the land through
our commitment to stewardship and through our ceremonies. I understand this obligation
as our Sacred Trust.
What is now Victoria used to be shared by five other communities: the Cheko'nein, the Chilkowetch, the Swenghwung, the Hwyuwmilth, and the Teechamitsa. We spoke the same language and, to a large extent, shared the bounty the land and sea had to offer us.
When the British (under James Douglas) arrived in our territories, our ancestors – led by my ancestor Sisunuq and others – greeted him. A treaty signed with Douglas in 1850 – only six generations ago – guaranteed continued access to fishing and hunting, and maintenance of our spiritual relationship with the land, the resources and our ancestors. However, devastating disease and consistent efforts to assimilate us through land and education policies have exacted a devastating toll on our families.
Despite what the world thinks, we have not lost our culture. However, because our culture was tied to and sustained by our lands, we must find new ways to give it voice.
This website is a small step in that direction. Please explore it, and learn about who we are, about our history, our struggles, successes, traditions and teachings. Like my ancestor Sisunuq, who greeted the first Europeans in our homelands not long ago, they are seen as neighbours.
Welcome, no'ilung si'em sche'le'chu.