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Editorial: Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, the Olympics and reconciliation

'Would the bid for the Games further meaningful reconciliation through sport?' is the question. Would it go beyond the land acknowledgements and lip service we have become accustomed to paying Indigenous reparations?
Olympics
What are your thoughts about a possible Olympic bid? Let us know in a letter to the editor: editor@squamishchief.com. (via Shutterstock)

Like for an athlete training to make an Olympic team, there is a long and arduous road between the idea of making a bid and the opening Olympic ceremony.

On Dec. 10, when the three First Nations — Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) — announced they have jointly entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vancouver and Whistler to begin assessing the feasibility of hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2030, it pointed to how far we have collectively come and how far we have to go in honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action released in 2015.

This MOU reflects Action number 91: “We call upon the officials and host countries of international sporting events such as the Olympics, Pan Am, and Commonwealth games to ensure that Indigenous peoples’ territorial protocols are respected, and local Indigenous communities are engaged in all aspects of planning and participating in such events.”

As Squamish athletes, leaders, business owners and residents ponder the pros and cons of another Olympics held to the North and South of us — which many locals know well from 2010 — the reconciliation bigger picture is worth keeping in perspective.

A new report released Dec. 15  by the Yellowhead Institute finds that only 11 of the TRC 94 Calls to Action have been completed.

That is after six years.

If the decision is ultimately to make a bid for the 2030 Games, it would be the first Indigenous-led bid in the Games’ history.

What a message to the world that would be, what a moment of pride for Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) members in the district and for Indigenous boys and girls around the world who would watch, seeing themselves reflected and powerful, regardless of the oppression they personally still endure.  

There is much hope, pride and pain reflected in the Nation’s announcement of the MOU: “It is an opportunity to announce to the world that we are not invisible, we are still here and will always be here,” said Councillor and Nation spokesperson Wilson Williams, in the release.

Would the Olympics being hosted again in Whistler and Vancouver be good for the district? That is yet to be determined in the fine print.

But what those of us who are settlers have to gain is not the most crucial question.

“Would the bid for the Games further meaningful reconciliation through sport?” is the question. Would it go beyond the land acknowledgements and lip service we have become accustomed to paying Indigenous reparations?

That is up to the nations involved to decide.

Like the athletes who have to weigh how willing they are to truly devote themselves to the goal of competing in the Olympics — no matter the personal cost —  for non-Indigenous folks, the question is whether to support meaningful reconciliation or continue to only assess colonial benefits.