Kitsumkalum, Kitselas First Nations Release Details of Potential Treaty
Letter of Understanding to be explained to members
Public meetings will be held in the coming weeks, to give Kitsumkalum and Kitselas members a chance to learn more about the Letter of Understanding presented yesterday -- a letter which it's hoped will provide a blueprint for a long-sought treaty.
It's taken nearly two decades for the current round of these treaty discussions to reach this point -- but Kitsumkalum spokesperson Alex Boulton says this deal could pave the way to their ultimate goal of self-sufficiency -- and self-governance.
"We need enough land base, forest base, mineral base, water base, we need the funding, and we need the authority to be self-governing," said Boulton.
Kitselas Chief Councillor Judy Gerow says the Letter of Understanding announced Monday at the college longhouse in Terrace will provide certainty -- and allow them a share of the expected economic resurgence in the region.
"We're in the midst of an economic boom, and this is an opportunity for Kitselas to be full participating members in everything that happens in this area," Gerow said.
The deal would provide the Kitsumkalum First Nation over 45-thousand hectares of land (45,406 ha) and 44.2 million dollars in cash, while Kitselas would get 36-thousand hectares (36,159 ha) and 34.7-million dollars. Treaty Negotiator Gerald Wesley says this doesn't take in all of their traditional territories -- but it was a place to start.
"At the end of the day, we did draw lines on the map, and we said this is the most vital, most important parts of our territories that we need in order to achieve a treaty agreement," said Wesley, adding "we won't forgo the rest of it, but let's start off with this area."
Information meetings will be held this Saturday in Kitsumkalum and on September 28th at Kitselas, to give people a chance to have their questions answered. But non-first nations observers say the draft agreements are something everyone should get behind.
"It's exciting to see, I mean there's land that would make it possible for economic development in the region, and we're looking for that certainty," said Terrace Mayor Dave Pernarowski.
And BC Treaty Commissioner Dave Haggard said "it will give all of the people that live up here better opportunity for advancement, for new industries, for a new way of life with their neighbours in Kitselas or Kitsumkalum."
But one neighbour isn't impressed: the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, who say the draft agreements contain land that is part of their traditional territory -- and that it has no business being there.