FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Five Treaty 8 First Nations, along with the provincial and federal governments, announced the settlement of Treaty Land Entitlement claims.
The settlements resolve decades-old claims by the First Nations, stating they did not receive all the lands owed to them under Treaty 8, according to a provincial release. The Treaty Land Entitlements were first signed by these First Nations in 1899.
Judy Desjarlais, Chief of Blueberry River First Nations; Darlene Hunter, Chief of Halfway River First Nation; Justin Napoleon, Chief of Saulteau First Nations; Roland Wilson, Chief of West Moberly First Nations; and Trevor Makadahay, Chief of Doig River First Nation; along with Premier David Eby, Marc Miller, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; and Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation made the historical announcement at a conference on Saturday in Vancouver.
During the announcement, Miller said the federal government will provide $800 million as monetary compensation under the settlement, noting it’s owed to the First Nations and not “free money.” The province will provide 443 square kilometres of Crown land under the settlement to the five First Nations.
Chief Napoleon believes the settlement will “provide a lasting legacy and long-term economic stimulus for the Peace region.”
“We are all neighbours living together in our communities. We all prosper with the economic stimulation that comes from this settlement,” said Napoleon.
“Broken treaty promises have lasting negative impacts and cause untold harm to people and communities. Everyone suffers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, but these historic announcements bring us together.”
Chief Desjarlais commended the announcement as a “monumental day” for the Blueberry River First Nations community.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Desjarlais.
“In the spirit of truth, transparency, and reconciliation, we are setting a path for the next seven generations to be able to continue our traditional and cultural way of life on the land our ancestors were from, which they called ‘Su Nachii K’chige’ – the place where happiness dwells.”
Chief Hunter acknowledged the elders and community members “who have passed and never got to see this day.”
“I’m here today in honour of them,” said Hunter.
“This settlement will benefit not only the current generation of Halfway members but also the generations to come through the lands provided under the settlement Halfway has protected.”
During the conference, Miller addressed the announcement as a “moment to recognize that for more than a hundred years, the Crown failed” the First Nations by “not upholding its obligations as a treaty partner.”
“Your communities received less reserve, less land, than what was agreed by your nations when you signed the treaty with Canada,” said Miller.
Miller added the importance of acknowledging the historical losses and resolving land debt owed by the Crown.
“In doing so, I’m confident that we can approach the future with a renewed and strengthened relationship envisioned in the treaty,” said Miller.
“The settlement of your Treaty Land Entitlement Claims and all the specific claims are critical to addressing past wrongs and advancing reconciliation in a way that respects the rights of First Nations and in a way that holds Canada accountable.”
According to Premier Eby, the settlement announcement is a milestone for the five First Nations, along with the provincial and federal governments, and a critical step towards reconciliation in the Peace region.
“This is an agreement that will address a 100-year-long injustice that was committed when Nations were cheated out of thousands of acres of land that they were entitled to,” said Eby.
“To make this right, we have to build a future in B.C. that’s based on respect and reconciliation.”
The settlement of the Treaty Land Entitlement claims results from efforts by chiefs, councils, and negotiators, who have been working together to find a resolution since 2004. According to a provincial release, by settling these claims, the provincial and federal governments aim to show their commitment to advancing reconciliation, building trust, and showing long-overdue respect and acknowledgment for the Treaty relationship.
With files from the Canadian Press.