Four first Nations communities in the Cariboo have reached a major milestone in B.C treaty negotiations.
Signing a treaty agreement in principle at Canim Lake Sunday were Chief Patrick Harry of Canoe and Dog Creek, Chief Andrea Gilbert of Soda Creek, Chief Ann Louie from Williams Lake, Chief Helen Henderson of Canim Lake, and Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and BC’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser.
Chief Ann Louie called it a great day and said their people have been in discussions for 25 years attempting to become self-governing and get out from under the Indian Act, which restricts and controls their lives totally.
The NStQ Agreement-in-Principle according to a news release lays out the elements of treaty for the four communities, including ownership of land and resources, harvesting rights, processes for transition from the Indian Act to self-government, and social services.
It marks the start of the final stage of negotiations of a treaty with the NStQ First Nations that will be informed by Canada’s and British Columbia’s new commitments to reconciliation and the understanding that a treaty will establish ongoing and evolving relationships between each other.
“I look forward to exercising our own governance in our territory and working with the federal and provincial governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action,” said Chief Andrea Gilbert.
“This is an important moment in the history of our people that will bring us closer to fulfilling our goals.”
The NStQ has been negotiating with British Columbia and Canada since 1996.
The Agreement-in-Principle was reached in December 2014 with members voting in a referendum in February 2016 giving NStQ leadership a mandate to proceed on to final negotiations.
“It has been a very long time that the Northern Secwepemc have been at the treaty table, waiting for justice. What we celebrate today is our own perseverance,” said Chief Patrick Harry.
“We are hearing the right things from the ministers here today.”
“We hope those promises make their way to our final negotiations and that we can, in the near future, see Northern Secwepemc people thriving under their own government, making decisions for themselves that will make a better, brighter future for our children’s children, long into the future.”