T'sou-ke Nation

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The T'sou-ke Nation of the Coast Salish peoples, is a band government whose reserve community is located on Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia, Canada. As of 2013, the T'sou-ke Nation with a membership of approximately 204 members, had two reserves around the Sooke Basin on the Strait of Juan de Fuca,[1] at the southern end of Vancouver Island with a total area of 67.2 hectares (165 acres).[1][2] The T'souk-e people are the namesake of the town of Sooke, British Columbia.



The name "T'Sou-ke" is derived from the Straits Salishans' Sook tribe. Their name was derived from the SENĆOŦEN[1] word T'Sou-ke, the name of the speciesof Stickleback fish that live in the estuary of the river.[1][2] The T'Sou-ke came into contact with Europeans through the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). The anglicized version of the SENĆOŦEN word was first Soke (pronounced "soak")[2] and then Sooke. The name of T'Sou-ke Nation's neighbouring town, river and basin and the main road, are based on the anglicized name, Sooke.[1]


The language of the T'Sou-ke Nation is the T'Sou-ke dialect [3] of the SENĆOŦEN (which linguists call Northern Straits Salish) of the Coast Salish languages, a subgroup of the Salishan language family.

"The First Nations that speak this language do not have a single name for the language. Instead, there is a different name for the language in each dialect: SENĆOŦEN , Malchosen, Lekwungen, Semiahmoo, and T’Sou-ke...These five dialects are spoken by the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) peoples and their closely related neighbours from the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, the Gulf and San Juan Islands, southern Vancouver Island and the southern edge of the Lower Mainland in British Columbia." This locations are marked on the map First Peoples' Language Map British Columbia.[4]

  • Language: SENĆOŦEN
    • Malchosen
      • Lekwungen
        • Semiahmoo
          • T’Sou-ke[3]

Endangered language[edit]

In his call for language rejunvenation, Chief Planes explained,[5]

At one time all our people spoke the language and it was not English. It was SENĆOŦEN, the language that we share with our neighbours at Scia'new and others around Victoria and Saanich.

—Chief Gordon Planes, T'Sou-ke Nation 2013b



"T'Sou-ke First Nation is governed by the chief and two councillors elected bi-annually under the Indian Act election system."[6][7][8] Elections are held every two years. In February 2012 Chief Gord Planes was re-elected for the third time. In the early 1980s Larry Underwood was elected as councillor and has been re-elected several times including in the 2012 elections. Bonnie Hill was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012.

At the regional level the T'Sou-ke First Nation is represented by the Naut'sa mawt Tribal Council with Chief Planes as Council president.[8]


In 1877 the Joint Reserve Commission allocated two reserves to the T'Sou-ke Nation.[1]

Treaty negotiations[edit]

The T'Sou-ke Nation is represented by the Te'mexw Treaty Association (TTA) along with four other Coast Salish First Nations. They entered the B.C. treaty process in 1995.[9]

On 26 February 2013 T'Sou-ke Nation and the Province of British Columbia signed an Incremental Treaty Agreement (ITA) and as of 2013, were in stage four of the six-stage process.[9]

Social and Economic Development[edit]

The T'Sou-ke Nation Health Centre, part of the Sooke Integrated Health Network, operates in cooperation with the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Inter-Tribal Health.[10][Notes 1]


Through the initiative of Chief Planes, in 2008 the community to established four goals: "self-sufficiency in energy and food, economic independence – or as Chief Planes has said, “No more living off the dole” – and a return to traditional ways and values."[8] Chief Planes explained,[11]

First Nations have lived for thousands of years on this continent without fossil fuels. It is appropriate that First Nations lead the way out of dependency and addiction to fossil fuels and to rely on the power of the elements, the sun, the wind and the sea once again.

—Chief Gordon Planes, T'Sou-ke Nation 2013a


Solar panels[edit]

By 2009 they had built a "a 400-panel solar photovoltaic panel system at the three administrative offices generating "fifty per cent more electricity than the next largest in British Columbia at the time.[8] The community thereby reduced power bills at the administrative offices by 100 per cent. In 2013, 25 homes also saw their cost cut by up to half.[8]

"In 2009 and 2010, hot-water solar panels were installed on the roofs of 42 of the 86 buildings on the reserve. The remaining houses will be upgraded with heat-pump water heaters by the end of 2014."[8]

Food security[edit]

By 2013, the T'Sou-ke community was developing community greenhouses to grow peppers, tomatoes, and eventually a cash crop of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) for export. Their long-term goal according to local activist, Christine George, is a zero-mile diet that might include traditional foods and foraging on the beach and in the forest.[8]


  1. ^ By 1996, spurred by changes in terms of public policy and governance of First Nations, Health Canada's Vancouver Island Zone Office closed, and 29 Vancouver Island Coast-Salish and Kwakwaka'wakw Chiefs mobilized to create what would become the Inter-Tribal Health Authority.


  1. ^ a b c d e f T'Sou-ke Nation 2013.
  2. ^ a b c TTA 2013.
  3. ^ a b FPHLCC 2013.
  4. ^ FPHLCC 2013b.
  5. ^ T'Sou-ke Nation 2013b.
  6. ^ There are three principal methods by which First Nations communities currently select their chiefs and councils. They are: elections pursuant to the electoral provisions of the Indian Act and accompanying Indian Band Election Regulations; community-based leadership selection processes held according to custom; and elections conducted pursuant to the provisions of self-government agreements."
  7. ^ Government of Canada 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Tammemagi 2013.
  9. ^ a b Government of BC 2013.
  10. ^ ITHA nd.
  11. ^ T'Sou-ke Nation 2013a.


External links[edit]