First Nation treaty vote demand likely won’t happen

Northwest B.C. First Nation says it should vote on treaties for other First Nations

A FIRST NATION which says its lands are contained in proposed treaties for two other First Nations isn’t likely to get a vote on those treaties. The Gitxsan Treaty Society made the demand last week, saying portions of its territory have been included in allocations for both the Kitsumkalum and Kitselas.

The Kitselas agreed to its land base in an agreement in principle vote held last month and the Kitsumkalum are to vote on their agreement in principle next month.

The lands in question sweep from the Hazeltons north of Terrace toward Kitsumkalum Lake.

But “there are no circumstances under which another First Nation would be allowed to vote on an agreement in principle with a First Nation that is not part of that treaty negotiation table,” read a statement from the provincial government following the Gitxsan demand.

Overlaps, sometimes called shared territories, are common within B.C. land claims negotiations.

“British Columbia has an obligation to consult, and the respective First Nations are encouraged to find mutually agreeable resolutions of these shared territory claims,” the provincial statement continued.

Beverly Clifton-Percival from the Gitxsan Treaty Society says it has had minimal contact with the province regarding the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum agreements in principle.

“We have no clear picture of the size but it does go into our territory,” she said of the overlap involved.

The Gitxsan themselves have identified 33,000 square kilometres of territory and are in treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments but have not advanced as far as have the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum.

Clifton-Percival said court cases and resource agreements with the province have already resulted in the province accepting Gitxsan maps.

That acceptance affirms the scope of Gitxsan territory, she said.

“How can you offer land if the title is not clear?” Clifton-Percival said of overlap territory.

“We have rights under Section 35 [of the constitution],”  she added.

The Gitxsan, despite objections, also lost territory to the Nisga’a through the latter’s 2000 treaty with the federal and provincial governments.

“It’s not the first time the Crown has stolen our land,” said Clifton-Percival.

Kitselas and Kitsumkalum chief negotiator Gerald Wesley said the two First Nations are disappointed by the public stance of the Gitxsan.

“I thought we had an agreement to work quietly behind the scenes. I guess they think we haven’t been responsive enough,” said Wesley.

He felt the Gitxsan have been kept fully informed of land issues within the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum agreements in principle and there’s every reason to work arrangements that could lead, for example, to resource sharing.

“I would hope there would be some common sense. That’s how our ancestors did it in the years back and they were able to manage the resource,” said Wesley.

“We would hope to reach agreements they would be comfortable with and that we would be comfortable with,” he said of an anticipated resolution.

 

 

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