ROSE PRAIRIE, B.C. – After nearly two decades of negotiation with provincial and federal governments, Blueberry River First Nation and Doig River First Nation leaders signed a Treaty Land Entitlement settlement Monday afternoon.

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 — a promise that was never fulfilled.

Instead, a reserve of 13,000 acres less than the nation was entitled to under the treaty was created in 1916.

Members of BRFN and DRFN gathered Monday in the Doig Arbour to witness the signing,  which began with opening remarks from Elders, Blueberry River Chief Judy Desjarlais, and Doig River Chief Trevor Makadahay.

“It’s an emotional day today and a very historic moment. 18 years is a long time for the government to make up their mind about what was lost by the two nations,” Desjarlais began.

“We’ve lost a lot of people, valuable elders that had contributed to this case, who have passed before this day came.”

Makadahay, who was a councillor in 1999 when the claim for land promised by the Crown in Treaty 8 was initially submitted, also reflected on the efforts of those that didn’t live to see the signing.

“Books will be written about what our bands went through in the past and all the elders that went and testified in courts who aren’t here but set things up for us today,” he said.

“We have to think back about them. They’re the ones who struggled, and they won’t see any of it.”

Desjarlais says she believes the Blueberry River and Doig River nations will continue to work together in the future.

“Right now, it’s the early stages of planning of what our future’s going to look like, but [with] the two nations working together, we’re gonna do some community engagement,” She said

“Within Blueberry alone, our community will come together to start planning for the future.”

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.