Blueberry River First Nations and Doig River First Nation members voted to accept and sign negotiated Treaty Land Entitlement settlements.
Each Nation’s Chief and Council will proceed with signing settlement agreements with the federal government and provincial governments of B.C. and Alberta, as well as with each other.
The claim for land promised by the Crown in Treaty 8 but never received by the First Nations was submitted in 1999. It was accepted for negotiation by the federal government in 2004.
“This is the culmination of almost 20 years of challenging negotiations with both levels of Government,” Blueberry River Chief Judy Desjarlais said in a release.
“This settlement is a generational opportunity for our Nation, and Chief and Council looks forward to working closely with membership to realize a community-driven vision for the settlement funds and lands.”
Blueberry River and Doig River are the descendants of the Fort St. John Beaver Band. It was the first nation to sign Treaty 8 in B.C. and, in doing so, was promised land that would provide 128 acres per member after reserve locations were established in consultation with signatories.
That promise was never fulfilled.
Instead, a reserve of 13,000 acres less than the nation was entitled to under the treaty was created in 1916.
Land was instead opened to settlement and commercial development. While descendants of the and lost the use of that land, it began to produce economic benefits for the province and the industries that took up residence on it.
Doig River Chief Trevor Makadahay says that, when this process began, the nation recognized the need to select and protect future reserve land.
“Our members selected settlement land in both British Columbia and Alberta, reflecting our connection to key cultural areas around our existing community at Doig River and Alááʔ saatǫ dȩ (Petersen’s Crossing) and into K’ih tsaa?dze Tribal Park,”said Makadahay.
Blueberry River, according to Chief Desjarlais, did a similar selection of reserve land areas of cultural, spiritual, and traditional interest in 2005.
Now that a successful settlement is on its way, “I just wish that the Blueberry leaders and Elders that have passed on since 2005, but that contributed so significantly to this settlement over the years, could be here to see the realization of their great vision,” said Desjarlais in a release.
The vote that directs the councils of both Nations to accept the negotiated settlement is a successful moment, Chief Makadahay said in the joint release.
“It is a time to celebrate but also a time to reflect on the hardships many of our elders went through over the years. This settlement is intended to improve the lives of all our members, both today and into the future,” said Makadahay.