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‘We’re Going to Work Together. That’s the Nutsa’maat Commitment’ – The Tyee

Jun 28, 2024

Lydia Hwitsum is a land champion for bringing together First Nations and settler governments using a traditional Cowichan principle.

More than 50 years ago, Lydia Hwitsum, whose traditional name is Xtli’li’ye, regularly splashed and played in Quamichan Lake. Now, the Vancouver Island lake suffers from rampant toxic algae blooms brought on by human development.

Its deterioration serves as fuel for Hwitsum’s relentless work to bring First Nations and settler governments together to protect the natural world.

“My grandchildren can’t swim in the same lake I happily splashed in. [As a child] I got water in my mouth and swallowed it. Right now, you might have to go get medical treatment if that happened,” Hwitsum said.

A former Chief of the Cowichan Tribes First Nation, Hwitsum, 60, is leading a decades-long career that has carried her into leadership roles at many esteemed organizations dedicated to First Nations’ health, justice, water and fisheries.

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