Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of the Cowichan Tribes, says the Citizenship Code changes will make it easier for would-be members to understand eligibility requirements. (B.C. government photo)

Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of the Cowichan Tribes, says the Citizenship Code changes will make it easier for would-be members to understand eligibility requirements. (B.C. government photo)

Cowichan Tribes ratifies Citizenship Code

Would-be members of Cowichan lineage faced barriers to applying

In its recent ratification vote, Cowichan Tribes members passed changes to the Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, or Citizenship Code, with 79 per cent of votes cast supporting the amendments.

The number of eligible voters was 3,320 with 137 voting. Just one ballot was rejected.

“The revised Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw makes it easier for people to understand who can apply for Cowichan Tribes membership,” explained Chief Lydia Hwitsum. “This vote and these changes are an important milestone for our community, as the last amendments were made on June 28, 1992. We know a lot has changed in 30 years and we wanted to ensure our Citizenship Code reflected these changes.”

With the old rules, would-be members of Cowichan lineage faced barriers to applying. The rules as they were would have not only prevented members from applying, but would have eventually led to the population of Cowichan Tribes decreasing over the years. Having a clear and transparent Shtunni’s tu Hwulmuhw, or Citizenship Code, is essential to ensuring a vibrant Cowichan Tribes for future generations, a press release said.

In a video explaining the new Citizenship Code, Stuart Pagaduan (Qwiyahwult-hw) said “what needs to be said today is that a lot of our members and a lot of our parents and our anscestors — their identity has been stripped away a long time ago. Not only does mainstream people need to understand who we are, our own people, not by their choice, have lost a lot of things that are dear to them: family, cultural traditions and values.”

Key features of the approved amendments include:

• Clearer language to make it easier for people to understand eligibility requirements for Cowichan Tribes membership

• Moving from male-centric language to gender inclusive language (he/she/they vs he)

• Removing requirement for applicants to have access to on-reserve land, as the land base is limited

• Reflecting Government of Canada changes to status requirements (including Bills C-3 and S-3)

• Honouring the family and lineage of descendants of women who never re-applied for lost status, so did not receive membership

Cowichan Tribes