Somena Or S'amuna'

The Somena are one of several Indigenous Peoples living in the Duncan region of British Columbia, Canada who are collectively usually referred to by the misnomer "Cowichan tribe" or "Cowichan tribes". Other groups within the Duncan/Cowichan area were the Comiaken, Quamichan, Clemclemaluts, Khenipsen, Koksilah, and Kilpahlas. The Indian Agents for the Federal Government forced an Amalgamation of the Indigenous Nations of the Cowichan Valley over 100 years ago. These Nations were recognized as separate Tribes or Nations.

The last "hereditary chief" or Siem/Leader of Somena recognized by the Canadian/British government was Charlie Quitquarton. His descendants are still alive today and living on the Cowichan Indian Reserve. In recent years, some descendants of the original Somena Aboriginal peoples have taken steps to assert their independence from the Cowichan Indian Band. Most recently those same members sparked a tax-revolt on the reserve when the Cowichan Indian Act band government attempted to impose what some thought was an illegal tax upon Aboriginals' and non-Aboriginals' purchases of alcohol, tobacco, and fuel.

These same Somena Aboriginals have officially requested that the Government of Canada recognize their independence from the Cowichan Tribes "Band" created by the Indian Act. Furthermore, they have informed the British Columbia Treaty Commission that the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group does not represent their interests in treaty negotiations.

Somena Governance

The Somena Independence Movement and people participating in the push for recognition of Independence from the "Cowichan Tribes Indian Act Band" have a body of Sulqueen (elders) who serve as the governing body within Somena. This is in accordance with Snuewueth, the traditions and teachings of the Hwhulmuhw Mustimuxw (The True People)

The Hwhulmuhw Mustimuxw of Coast Salish Indigenous Peoples had variances on styles of governance but some key ideals and principles are common throughout Coast Salish Territory.

The core unit of Governance is "The Family". Within each family, which owns a Thi Lelum (or Big House) each individual has claim to a Shwumpmaat. (This is their bed, place within their family Big House, in theoretical/metaphysical terms or in actual physical terms). A group of Big Houses together was called a Hwnuchalewum.

A Hwnuchalewum was the largest unit of governance within the Somena People's system of Governance. It was in the Hwnuchalewum that disputes were resolved, that people met, that political alliances were forged, and that anywhere from 2 to 20+ families lived together. (A Family of families)

This was made possible by the physical structure of the Big Houses themselves which made it easy for new families to join a particular Hwnuchalewum, by simply making an addition to the existing Big Houses of that Hwunuchaelwum.

A village within any of these Indigenous Nations may have several Hwnuchalewum.

If a family or several families were not happy with their place or representation in governance from the "Family of Families" of the Hwnuchalewum they belonged to, they could apply to the another Hwnuchalewum to attach themselves there, or they may indeed go so far as to establish their own Hwnuchalewum. This act - this separation of one family or group of families from One Hw'nuchalewum to form their own Hwnuchalewum or join another or create their own, was called "Hwnitzelum" (To go their own way).

There was no word for "Chief" in the language of the Hul'qumi'num Peoples. We had people who were considered "High Honoured" or who came from particularly high ranking families which were large in size, had lots of capital, had strong and wealthy trade relationships with many other family's, Hwnuchalewums, Nations inside and outside of their territory.

About The Somena Independence Movement

The founder of the Somena independence movement was the late [ Doug Williams] who asked that his children, grandchildren, friends, and relatives carry on with the quest for recognition of Somena's independence after his death.

Somena Facts

The S'amuna' Hwnuchalewum is comprised of 4 families within Somena and its allied families. These families comprise a population of over 167 individuals, men, women and children.

The land holdings of the families and individuals of the S'amuna' Hwnuchalewum is estimated to be approximately convert|650|acre|km2 in size, although this is only reserve lands, and does not include "land in question" i.e. "Aboriginal Title lands."

As of June 12th 2006, the S'amuna' Hwnuchalewum began issuing its own gold-backed currency. This currency is called "S'amuna Tela" and a single unit of this currency is called A "somen".

There are currently 8 businesses owned by members of the S'amuna Hw'nuchalewum located on the Somena Indian Reserve. Including, a bank, a check-cashing service, a micro-loan fund, an autobody shop, a contract-heavy equipment company, an international process service company, and a gaming tsetsewatil for both Sla-hall (traditional bone-game) and bingo.

Terminology Regarding Why Somena is not a "First Nation"

A First Nation is a legally undefined term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the term "Indian Band". A band is defined as "a body of Indians for whose collective use and benefit lands have been set apart or money is held by the Canadian Crown, or declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act [1] ." There are currently over 600 First Nations governments or bands in Canada. Roughly half of these are located in the provinces of Ontario or British Columbia.

There is some controversy over the use of the term "First Nations" to either self-describe Indigenous peoples within Canada, or for non-indigenous peoples to refer to Indigenous peoples in this fashion. The reason for this controversy is that under international law covenants, "First Nations" per se, have no standing in international law. Indigenous peoples, Tribes or Nations, however, do.

In general, those Indigenous peoples within Canada who describe themselves as "First Nations" do not believe or hold with the concept of sovereignty of Indigenous peoples nations, while those who do not use the term, or insist upon the term "Indigenous peoples" are sovereignists. There are also Indigenous people in Canada who use the term "First Nation" for any tribal and or nomadic ethnic group deprived of self-determination as a political recognition of colonialization. These groups work internationally on minority rights and self-determination.

External links

* [ "New York Times"]
* [ "National Post"]
* [ "Financial Post"]
* [ Frontier Center For Public Policy]
* [ "Aboriginal Times"]
* [ "Foreign Affairs Digest", Govt of Canada]
* [ "Vancouver Sun"]
* [ "Vancouver Province"]
* [ "Cowichan Valley Citizen"]
* [ "Cowichan Newsleader//]
*"Homemakers Magazine"


* [ "Request To The Government of Canada, Formal Demand For Recognition of Independence By The S'amuna' Hwnuchaelwum", Oct 10th 2002] - Delivered to Adrienne Clarkson, The Governor General of Canada,& to Sr. Advisor on Aboriginal Affairs To Prime Minister Paul Martin, & to Iona Campagnolo, Lt. Governor of British Columbia, Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell and local media.
* [ "Somena Independence Push Hits Treaty Table"] , Cowichan Newsleader Oct 15th, 2002,
* [ "Declaration Of The S'amuna' Hwnuchalewum regarding Heritage Sites"] , Delivered March 17th, 2003, to The Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General, Sr. Advisor on Aboriginal Affairs To Prime Minister Paul Martin, Lt. Governor of British Columbia, Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, Inspector Linton Robinson of the RCMP, and local media.
* [ "Declaration Regarding Gaming"] , Delivered Nov 15th, 2006 to The Governor General, Minister of Indian Affairs, To Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Lt. Governor of British Columbia, Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, Inspector Linton Robinson of the RCMP, and local media etc...
* [ "Notice Given to the BC Treaty Commission Regarding Several Violations of the BC Society Act etc"] , by the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group.
* [ "Communication with the BC Treaty Commission"] , March 6th, 2003, from the S'amuna' Hwnuchalewum, about the erroneous "statement of intent" of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group, and lack of mandate for the HTG to negotiate on behalf of the Signatories to the " [ Request To The Government of Canada]
* [ "Communication given to the BC Treaty Commission"] , April 9th, 2003

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