COLUMN: New ramifications to ‘It’s all our land’

The grandeur of the scenery, the remoteness, and the isolation were truly remarkable...

It’s been many years since I traversed the Nemiah Valley: the first with a hunting/fishing friend when returning from a Chilcotin country exploration that took us all the way out to Bella Coola; the second with my eldest son engaging in a similar adventure.

From the hauntingly beautiful Choelquoit Lake, Tatlayoko bordered by coast mountains and spectacular Chilco Lake, its waters an incredible colour, we travelled through the Brittany Triangle (home of B.C.’s only true wild horses) to the Nemiah. The track we followed was rough and narrow, suitable only to the most intrepid.

The grandeur of the scenery, the remoteness, and the isolation were truly remarkable. We encountered not another traveller on both trips – the land ‘was ours’ to enjoy.

Today, that land is no longer ‘ours.’

Through the Supreme Court of Canada, the Nemiah band has been granted ownership of all the lands described above plus more, encompassing in all some one million acres.

Since the court decision was rendered, there’s been a lot of handwringing, but as one who has been there, and felt its importance to those who live there, it was a just decision. After all, the people who live there now descend from forebears who populated, gained sustenance and respected it for millennia.

A few years after my travels through the area, Terry Glavin, with the help of band members, wrote “Nemiah, the Unconquered Country.” It wasn’t long before it joined the dozens of other B.C. books in my library, many relating to the Chilcotin country.

Interestingly, the preface to the book contained the following, called The Nemiah Declaration, that begins: “Let it be known as of August 23, 1989: We, the Tsilhqot’in People of Xeni, known as the Nemiah Valley Indian Band, declare . . .”

The statement went on to describe their lands, its uses and its restrictions to others.

Twenty-five years later, those declarations are now law.

In item 7 it notes “We are prepared to SHARE our (land) with non-natives . . .” though it does state permission will be needed, permits to hunt and fish will be required, and respectful use of their lands will be encouraged subject to their system of permits.

The land, some 1,750 square kilometres, is now legally recognized as being owned by the Nemiah people, just as my property is owned with all the rights of ownership relating to use, access and so forth.

Will this allocation have a significant effect on the rest of what we now know as Crown land for the use of everyone who lives in British Columbia?

Absolutely, because in the Nemiah, and anywhere else such legal designations declare “public lands” as being the ownership of resident aboriginal bands, all resources are now under their jurisdiction.

Forest harvesting, mining – even the often overlooked but largely used ranging of beef cattle – will become decisions between the native band owners and those who wish to log or mine, run cattle or hunt and fish.

Any stumpage costs for cutting trees, mineral royalties, range fees, possibly even recreational licensing, presumably will flow to the lands’ owners – the First Nations bands – rather than into provincial coffers.

If all of B.C.’s land claims are settled in a similar ownership way to that of the Nemiah, revenues from 94 per cent of the land mass of this province will flow to First Nations, not government coffers.

That’s the potential to put a lot of financial strain on those who live on/in the remaining six per cent to fund education, health care, the social safety net, etc., because up until now most of us have reaped the benefit of natural resource revenues.

The Supreme Court of Canada has sent a clear message that in future, consultation and accommodation must happen with First Nations.

In the meantime, some 155,000 B.C. aboriginals are thrilled with future prospects, and the Nemiah band is justifiably proud and happy to have finally realized, through the highest court in the land, their right to ownership of their own land.

markrushton@abbynews.com

Just Posted

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read