The Sumas First Nation unveiled a bold declaration asserting title rights over its ancestral territory at a ceremony on Friday.
The nation’s chief and band councillors signed the Semá:th Declaration at their Sumas Mountain Road longhouse following song, dance and speeches.
The declaration affirms the nation’s rights to all land, mountains, minerals, trees, lakes, rivers, streams and resources extending through its traditional lands beyond its small reserve at the foot of Sumas Mountain.
“The declaration is more or less a statement to put out to people who we really are,” Chief Dalton Silver said.
It lays out some key priorities the nation has for its relationship with both the governments and people of Canada and B.C.:
– That the Sumas people have inalienable rights to their territory, self-determination and their governance principles underpinned by culture, tradition and spirituality.
– These rights have always and will always exist and were never ceded to B.C., U.S. or Canadian governments
– The Sumas will do everything in their power to press for these rights in both law and practice
“One of the things that we’re really, really trying to achieve is recognition as the first people’s of the land,” Silver said. “It’s not just a spiritual statement it’s really physically and literally connected to the land and our surroundings and we can understand thousands of years of habitation in an area.”