THE DRAFT Agreement in Principle between the province of BC and the Kitselas has caused concern for the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, as noted in a press release today.
The offer contains land that is part of Gitxsan traditional territory and is being done without proper consultation or accommodation of the affected Simgiigyet (Chiefs), said the release.
“We are quite surprised and shocked to see our lands are part of this offer, considering the Gitxsan have legally enforceable title,” said Simoogit Skaýan (Anita Davis) in the release, “Under the circumstances, any trespass will not be tolerated as the province cannot ignore the law.”
However, it is up to the provincial and federal governments to discuss the deal with each First Nation and not up to the first nations to talk to each other.
In the 2002 Yal et al decision in the Supreme Court of BC, it was found the Gitxsan had a strong claim of rights and a good claim of title, the release continued.
The Gitxsan practice an effective land tenure system over their 33,000 sq km of territory which has been in place for thousands of years, the release said.
The title of the lands rests with the wilp (houses) of the Gitxsan Nation, said the release. On the other hand, the band’s jurisdiction rests on the reserves which were created around 1938, the release continued.
“Clearly, the Gitxsan strength of claim is better than that of Band Councils. Indian Act bands do not have any land tenure off reserve and the province does not have constitutional authority to offer land belonging to the Gitxsan,” says Gwaans (Bev Clifton Percival) in the release, “We have asked provincial and federal negotiators at our table for information but have gotten no response yet.”
The Gitxsan Chiefs Office will work with the affected huwilp (houses) and intends to meet with the province soon, the release said.