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Tŝilhqot’in title lands crux of two-day meeting with Indigenous leaders, premier, ministers

Premier John Horgan, five ministers met with the Tŝilhqot’in Nation at Nemiah Valley Lodge
Premier John Horgan and five cabinet ministers pose with Tŝilhqot’in chiefs during a two-day meeting in the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation caretaker area. (B.C. Government photo)

Collaboration and shared decision-making were top of mind during a recent meeting between the Tŝilhqot’in National Government and B.C.’s premier and cabinet ministers.

Between Sept. 21 and 22, the TNG met with Premier John Horgan and ministers Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovations, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Minister Responsible for Emergency Management BC and and Katrine Conway, Minister of Forests, at Nemiah Valley Lodge which was purchased by Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in 2019.

Tl’etinqox Chief and TNG tribal chair Joe Alphonse said the meetings were positive overall.

“A wide scope of issues was addressed on title lands. Governance isn’t just about resource extraction - it’s about people. We must keep the social well-being of our people at the forefront of the work we do as leaders.”

Horgan said since the Chilcotin War of 1864, the history of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and the Crown has been, for the most part, one of denial of rights and promotion of conflict.

“It’s been an honour and privilege to be invited to experience Tsilhqot’in ‘Nen’ (lands, water and resources) first-hand and understand the power and importance of them.”

In 2019 the TNG signed the Gwets’en Nilt’i Pathway Agreement to further reconciliation and Tŝilhqot’in self-determination.

The agreement came on the heels of the historic 2014 Supreme Court of Canada declaration of Aboriginal title for the Tŝilhqot’in Nation over 1,900 kilometres of land in the Xeni Gwet’in caretaker area.

It is tangible expression of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which recognizes every Nation has unique and distinct paths to self-determination.

It includes a commitment for Canada and B.C. to legally recognize Tŝilhqot’in governance so that the Tŝilhqot’in communities can transition away from the Indian Act on a path toward self-governance.

Rankin said the TNG is recognized for its leadership in advancing Indigenous rights.

“This trip has been an opportunity for our governments to continue this complex work together.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua said the visit signifies a rejuvenation of their relationship with the provincial government.

“The Premier has shown great leadership and will be greatly missed by the Nation. His work has set an example on how to build relationship in Indigenous communities,” Lulua said.

During COVID the meetings continued online and over Zoom, but this was the first time they parties will be able to meet in person in quite a while.

The six communities within the TNG are Xeni Gwet’in, Tŝideldel, ?Esdilagh, Tl’esqox, Tl’etinqox and Yuneŝit’in.

With files from a joint TNG, provincial government news release

READ MORE: Premier, ministers meet with Tsilhqot’in National Government on title lands

READ MORE: Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and B.C. government hold working session on long-term management of title lands

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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