Tsartlip Welcomes Will Morris as the Director of Stewardship

Will Morris:

I come from here in Tsartlip. Whenever I introduced myself by late grandparents would always encourage us to maintain that we’re not just from the village of Tsartlip, but we’re from WSANEC, that’s our home territory. 

My position here, I am the Marine Stewardship Director, so it’s a newly established position under the Salish Seas initiative. Tsartlip is a little bit late to the party, but is now in the process of catching up. I just started my contract. I believe it’s been a week now, so I’m still pretty fresh.  I left a position in Tseycum First Nation doing the same thing. I gave them five years in a number of different capacities, but I talked it over with my elders and my parents, siblings and family, my kids and they asked me to come home: “It’s time to come home – it’s time to come home and help now Dad.” It’s nice because I can literally like, roll out of bed, you know, get dressed and walk across the street and go to work. I’m very passionate, I grew up close to the water. For people that don’t know me, my family, The Geronimo Canoe Club is my family. They call us beach kids. So we’re very passionate about anything to do with the water. It’s exciting for me to be home, to start a lot of these initiatives with my friends and family members that I grew up with and inclusive of those that are away from home as well to see what’s going on within our territory. It’s exciting and it’s daunting at times. Because there hasn’t been someone in this role, there’s a lot of ground to cover. There’s a lot of different initiatives. We’re in this new room and it’s really nice, but I can tell you right now, probably within six months to a year, we’re going to outgrow this place, expanding into other areas.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be doing in this role?

Will Morris:

One of the first tasks that they gave me is to develop a strategy that looks at our boat ramp and the viability of our boat ramp;  looking at plans and community input, I think it needs to be evaluated. It’s great that there have been some upgrades, but there is a whole different demographic, I think, that was left out of how it looks and how it possibly could be. There’s a bit of a budget set aside to look at developing that strategy, and it’s exciting, I think um, coming out of the pandemic, you know, as of today, I think we’re allowed to have meetings, which is exciting. Cause I spent a long time in my previous role being unable to meet with community members at all, which was definitely a challenge. I know how passionate Tsartlip people are about the territory.

There is also funding in our budget to purchase a vessel, which is super exciting. We don’t have a community boat. I’ve been in communities, smaller communities that have like two and three vessels for their staff to be reviewing what’s going on in the territory, whether it’s observation, whether it’s fisheries.  whether it’s, you know, these kinds of things Tsartlio doesn’t have that capability. So it’s a lot of ground to make up for the short amount of time. I already see spin-offs coming from some of the work that we’re going to be doing, which is really super exciting, what that looks like for leadership and the role expanding here. That to me is really exciting. And of course, addressing the concerns, there’s a ton of concerns. I can see on social media regularly, community members that have not been heard. Our people are very passionate about their homelands and their territories, and they haven’t had that capability of reaching out and we can help mitigate those struggles for sure.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about your experience and education?

Will Morris:

You name it, I’ve probably done it. I worked with the Coast Guard for a number of years. I spent 12+ years as an elected leader here in Tsartlip. I’ve been on numerous boards and committees across Canada. I attended post-secondary at the University of Victoria and post-college working my way towards an undergrad in Anthropology.  I did some time with NALMA, the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association. I did some time at the University of Saskatchewan for that. I also did language revitalization through the University of Victoria,  so I have spent some time immersed in SENCOTEN, our language here. I’m a father, now a grandfather. I have my three: my Hannah she’s my oldest, my daughter, Layla and my son, William is now 12. My granddaughter – she lives with us as well – she’s a year old, um, I am family man, I am close with my siblings. My brothers are basically next door. My parents are close by as well. Yeah, that’s a little bit about my background, academically. 

Professionally, I taught scuba for quite a number of years too. So anything to do with on, below or anything to do with the water, it’s a beach-kid related and it’s fascinating to me. There are other areas I’d like to get into, to expand the department into:

I am looking at the sustainability of fisheries within the inlet. Boating…we have a boat ramp, we have a boat launch, we invite people to our community to launch their boats, but we’re not prepared should there be a boating emergency. How can we mitigate some of those concerns?

Micro and Macro – It’s the little things – drainage into the bay, it’s a concern for me. There was a fire on the weekend. I spent Saturday afternoon, there’s a fire on a vessel on the straits and it to me could have infringed on the treaty so  I kept my finger on the pulse just to make sure that leadership was informed and anything that we might be able to do so at least we’re aware, we’re informed. So, um, yeah, I don’t know what else you want to get into in terms of my background, but that’s some of it anyway. 

Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about what you’d like to accomplish in your role?

Will Morris:

By the time I’m done my contract here, I’d like to leave the community with a legacy that looks at Stewardship, not just as something that one department does, but that we’re continuously working at as a nation.  I know that it’s already happening within a lot of families within our nation, but it’s bringing it more to the greater population – knocking down walls and working with our neighbours. I think it’s what they would call reconciliation in action. Looking at building relationships, working relationships with members, officers that had the same concerns that we have, whether it’s pollution, that’s overfishing, whether it’s emergency planning, mitigating different things, anything from the technical point of view on the water, on the beaches, right into the board rooms, whether we’re looking at the WLC or CRD or relationships with our schools.

So developing those relationships, enhancing educational opportunities, leaving the nation to just pick up and run with what we’ve created, I don’t want to handcuff myself to be here forever. There’s a lot of other things I’d like to accomplish during my time, but I really want to raise this up as much as I can create the profile for the community and make it so it’s community-based. It’s not just one department. thinking they can run roughshod over the people. Everybody has something to offer and it’s important to me that everyone’s heard. Like I said earlier, a lot of our people haven’t been heard for a long time. So when those words come out, they’re going to be passionate. Especially coming out of the pandemic. I expect a lot of passion coming from a lot of our membership on and off-reserve, and visitors from across the street…What does that look like? 

So I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m happy to be home. I’m looking forward to the challenges, looking forward to, you know, creating something very special for the community. It took a little bit of time for Tsartlip to get involved with Salish Seas Initiative. We’re kind of late to the party, as I mentioned earlier. but in no way, shape or form has the leadership sold out any rights or put any, uh, burden on the community Tsartlip still does not officially agree with the TMX pipeline. If anything, Tsartlip has taken a stance to say that we don’t agree, but we’re here, we need to be heard, we do need to build their capabilities. And that’s part of why I’ve been tasked with. Other than that, I’m excited to be home. I’m looking forward to really building something special here.

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