Community hurt after racist incident on First Nations reserve

People in the vehicle yelled taunts on Tseshaht First Nation reserve

A racially charged incident on a Vancouver Island reserve has left a community surprised and angry. 

A video taken around 12:30 am on Tuesday shows a white pick-up truck driving slowly up a residential road of the Tseshaht  First Nation, near Port Alberni, while people in the vehicle yell out the windows. 

"They honked the horn a few times and they were making whooping sounds, the kind of sounds that are associated with First Nations people, the kind you see in the movies," says Hugh Braker, Council member of the Tseshaht. 

"At least one of the people said "We hate Indians, we hate Indians." This caused a bunch of agitation on the reserve."   

Braker says given the protests happening in America against systemic racism, his community is particularly sensitive to this, but he is more concerned about the children who may have heard it. 

"You know if they'd driven the truck through the reserve and just made a whooping sound with their voices I would have sort of laughed, but when they said they hate Indians... I know that the noise had awoken some kids and you really don't want children to hear that, especially first Nations children. It's just something you don't want for any child really, I don't care what race they are."

The Mayor of Port Alberni, Sharie Minions and Cynthia Dick, Elected Chief Councillor for Tseshaht First Nation issued a joint statement on the incident Tuesday. 

“This morning, we learned of what appears to be a shocking racially-fueled incident that targeted local First Nations on the Tseshaht Reserve. The incident was reported to local R.C.M.P, who are actively investigating the case. As leaders in the Alberni Valley, we will do everything in our power to assist R.C.M.P. in finding these individuals so they may be held accountable for their actions," said Black. 

“The behavior displayed during this incident is in no way reflective of our community values. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Tseshaht and all First Nations people and will not tolerate racism in our community," Minions stated. "In recent days, much of the world news has focused on the systemic racial divide, and our close-knit community is certainly not immune to these problems, but we have to be better.  We are better." 

The incident comes on the heels of a demonstration held in Port Alberni Monday to express solidarity with the family of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died in police custody last week. 

"To follow that up with the event last night (Tuesday) is just kind of crazy to me. I hope that the people who were at the demonstration expressing concern about racism in America, I hope there is more of them than the people who were driving around in the white pickup truck yelling 'We hate Indians.' You've got to hope there is more good people than racists." 

He says this is no time to take these things lightly, and his community is still hurt by the event.

"There is still anger. We're shocked that these type of people even exist in our community. We're shocked that there are people here, still today, who would engage in this type of activity. Especially when it's in a residential area where you could expect children to me, that's the most hurtful part really."

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