The City of New Westminster hosted the Tsilhqot’in Nation who held a ceremony commemorating the wrongful trial and hanging of a Chilcotin Chief.

Standing together with current Tsilhqot’in Chiefs to honor Chief Ahan on Thursday was City Councilor Chuck Puchmayr.

“It was a really special day,” he said.

“It’s the anniversary of the wrongful execution of Chief Ahan at our old courthouse in New Westminster and two weeks ago Saturday, we removed the statue of Judge Begbie who was the judge that sentenced the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs to death, so this was a very important day. We also went up to the possible cemetery site of Chief Ahan at the old high school in New Westminster.”

Puchmayr said he has personally been working with the Tsilhqot’in people since they approached him when he was the MLA for New Westminster back in 2007 seeking assistance in finding their missing Chief.

Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, Chief Joe Alphonse said the sacrifice of their six War Chiefs is something they as Tsilhqot’in remember and carry with them in all that they do.

“Our War Chiefs are heroes to our people and Canada and BC have both acknowledged this and exonerated all six of them. We see support once again from Western Canada’s oldest city, the City of New Westminster, by its decision to remove the Judge Matthew Begbie Statue at the Court House and to graciously host this memorial in respect for and to honour our War Chief.”

Chief Ahan was the last of six Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs to be hanged during the Chilcotin War of 1864/65.

New Westminster’s Mayor said hosting this commemoration is a significant step forward, and that they hope to continue to develop this relationship and work to establish a formal sister city relationship between their two communities.

“One of the most profound messages today is that even though reconciliation has gotten to the degree where the Supreme Court has awarded a significant land claim to the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, we haven’t strayed far from 154 years ago,” Puchmayr said.

“We now have the courts again engaged in the Xeni Gwet’in and Taseko Mines, so I’m very concerned that after 154 years of them fighting against colonizers coming into their country they’re still fighting to preserve land that has been awarded to them by the Supreme Court of Canada.”

(Editor’s Note: Listen to New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr in the audio file below)