Coast Tsimshian Propose Collaboration in Dispute With Nisga'a Over Nasoga Gulf Lands

John Crawford

A land purchase dispute between members of the Coast Tsimshian nations and the Nisga'a was made very public Friday, on Highway 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

Representatives of Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla set up an information blockade on the highway for a couple of hours, and while they weren't stopping motorists from passing through for more than a few minutes, they did want to make sure their message was heard. 

[PHOTO:   Nine Tribes of Coast Tsimshian hold Information Blockade near  Kasiks Bridge on Highway 16 west of Terrace -- Jun 7 2019 -- photo by Frank Landry/CFTK] 

"We did not approve of the sale of our territory," Lax Kw'alaams Band Councillor Stan Dennis Jr said.

The territory in question is called Nasoga Gulf -- an area along the coast, north of Lax Kw'alaams and adjacent to the Nisga'a Lands.

The Nisga'a have been negotiating the purchase of these Crown Lands with the B-C government since 2016, with an eye to possible industrial development -- specifically liquefied natural gas.

But Lax Kw'alaams Councillor Stan Dennis and Metlakatla negotiator Joycelynn Mitchell stood with other members of the Nine Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian to voice their opposition to the transfer, saying that those lands are traditionally Tsimshian territory.

They said the goal of the blockade was not to cause disruption to highway traffic between Prince Rupert and Terrace, but to make sure people understood the dispute --- at least from their point of view.

"I'm hoping that we're going to be able to raise the awareness of what we're doing and I'm hoping to garner a lot of support that we're not interested in selling our traditional territory and I think once people know more, that we will get support from the general public," said Mitchell.

But Dennis added "we want to make sure that what we have is protected and the resources within it."

The Tsimshian also accused the provincial government of trying to drive a wedge between the neighbouring nations.

But the Nisga'a released a statement Friday, saying they feel the protest is politically motivated, calling the attack on the NDP government unfair and unjust.

The Nisga'a say they are simply trying to pursue economic development activities in their treaty areas in a way that benefits all British Columbians, and that they've proposed meetings with Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla to discuss the transaction.


[MAP:   Nasoga Gulf Upland -- Nisga'a Lisims Government website] 

But the Coast Tsimshian say they hold Aboriginal Title on these lands, and vowed to vigorously defend them through direct action and through the courts.

They say collaboration is the key to resolving the issue.

"We as the Coast Tsimshian propose a path forward  that will see a mutually beneficial resolution to the Nasoga Lands, one where everyone -- the Nine Tribes, the Nisga'a nation, BC and Canada -- will benefit," said Dennis 

But Dennis says that won't happen if the province goes ahead with a unilateral sale of the Nasoga Gulf lands.  


[MAP:  Nine Tribes of Lax Kw'alaams ]


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