BC Treaty commissioner Angela Wesley spoke about her own experiences implementing the Huu-ay-aht First Nations modern day treaty on Feb. 21. (Brittany Gervais photo)

BC Treaty commissioner Angela Wesley spoke about her own experiences implementing the Huu-ay-aht First Nations modern day treaty on Feb. 21. (Brittany Gervais photo)

BC Treaty Commission visits Terrace to open talks about treaty

Kitselas and Kitsumkalum are in the last stage of their treaty process

An evening open house hosted by the BC Treaty Commission Feb. 21 invited people to discuss and talk about treaty negotiations and reconciliation in the region.

Commissioners Angela Wesley from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island and Mary-Ann Enevoldsen from the Homalco First Nation in Campbell River were in Terrace to talk about their own experiences with treaty negotiations and how they can play a role in reconciliation.

“One of the best things that has come to us through treaty is the ability to govern ourselves and make our own decisions,” says Wesley, who helped to implement the Maa-nulth Final Agreement in 2011, the first modern-day treaty signed on Vancouver Island.

The nation of around 750 people now operates under a Huu-ay-aht Constitution, meaning it has full ownership and jurisdiction over more than 8,200 hectares of land within their territories. Together, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council and hereditary chiefs seek and engage in “responsible and sustainable” economic development under their own laws, according to the nation’s website.

READ MORE: BC Treaty Commission says new deal offers smoother, faster road to treaties

In the years since the treaty was signed, the Huu-ay-aht has purchased 11 properties in Bamfield, a local marketing cafe, a motel, a fishing lodge and bed and breakfast facility, along with gas stations and a campground at the head of the West Coast Trail.

The process is happening slowly, but there has been an increase in the number of people moving back closer to the territory to take advantage of the new job opportunities, Wesley says.

Currently, there are six First Nations in the area in active treaty negotiations, with Kitsumkalum and Kitselas in the fifth and final stages.

Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc gave an emotional opening comment about treaty, mentioning the Cooperation Protocol Agreement between the city, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum, and the joint venture agreement between the city and Kitselas at the Skeena Industrial Development Park.

“Although treaty talks are held between First Nations and provincial and federal governments, the local governments do have a role to play,” Leclerc says.

Wesley says treaty can build relationships between governments and First Nations, and while it was not an easy process, the self-governing aspect that comes under treaty, the land and access to resources can be beneficial.

“The opportunity to bring people back home, to be connected to our homelands again, and to create a really vital and vibrant economy,” Wesley says. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think the tools in treaty brought us that ability to develop relationships, to create the economy, and bring people home.”

A couple of audience members asked questions about treaty and the negotiation process.

Kitselas elder Alfred McDames says he is concerned that the current draft of the treaty could be used as another land management document instead of a pathway to gain freedom and independence.

“As long as our rights and titles are respected and not touched, we would be more than happy to sit down and talk about access [to land and resources],” McDames says.

Kitsumkalum’s Cynthia Wunderlich Nelson echoed these thoughts on access, and says she wants to see more democratic referenda for treaty to have more open discussions within the community. Terrace’s Sarah Artis asked about loan forgiveness from First Nations communities for treaty negotiations, which the BC Treaty Commission says is being addressed.

Kitsumkalum Simoyget Richard Inkster, whose mother is Giluts’aaw and father Kitsumkalum, said First Nations governance is complex, and governments should not only negotiate with band councils because they were democratically elected, but all hereditary houses for land title and rights.

Commissioner Enevoldsen used the Sliammon Constitution as an example where both the band council and hereditary chiefs were able to identify areas where the elected government is responsible, and where the heads of families were responsible.

Shared territory agreements between Sliammon, Homalco and Klahoose also helped Homalco identify how these processes would work, she says.

READ MORE: Kitselas and Kitsumkalum sign preliminary treaty agreements

“It was a lot of very difficult conversations between the members themselves. It didn’t always end happy, but they both committed to coming back into the same room and treating each other with respect, and figuring a way out of this,” she says.

“There are a lot of ways our traditional teachings can be incorporated into this treaty process and made part of that.”

The treaty commission’s mandate is not to negotiate treaties but to facilitate negotiations and support the implementation of the UN Declaration, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and the recognition of First Nations rights and title. The process was established in 1992 to address pre-existing Indigenous title and rights.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Kitsumkalum’s Janice Robinson stood and asked questions about treaty to the BC Treaty Commission on Feb. 21. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Kitsumkalum’s Janice Robinson stood and asked questions about treaty to the BC Treaty Commission on Feb. 21. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Just Posted

Coast Mountains School District 82 is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)
CMSD82 coping with bus driver shortage in Terrace area

LNG Project, COVID-19 contributing to driver shortage

The District of Stewart has adopted a strategic plan for 2020/21 with six focus areas. (District of Stewart/Facebook)
Stewart adopts 2020 strategic plan

Economy, community areas of focus

Kendra Willems, seen here Nov. 5, created a Facebook page to help facilitate social supports such as clothing donations in an informal manner that supplements existing supports and charities. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Skeena Voices | ‘We could all use that kind of goodness’

Kendra Willems, new to Terrace, founds charitable Facebook page

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism ‘widespread’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

Most Read