Twenty years ago today, on May 11, 2000, the first modern treaty in British Columbia came into effect.
The Nisga’a Final Agreement was negotiated outside of the B.C. treaty process by the Nisga’a Nation, British Columbia and Canada. It recognizes 2,000 square kilometres of Nisga’a lands and secures Nisga’a hunting and fishing rights in the Nass Wildlife Area and Nass Area.
It is also the first treaty in British Columbia to offer constitutional certainty of an Indigenous people’s right to self-government.
“On this special milestone day, may we remember the generations of Nisga’a men and women who worked tirelessly over 113 years for the just and honourable settlement we achieved on May 11, 2000,” said Eva Clayton, Nisga’a Lisims Government president in a media release.
The planned 20th anniversary gathering has been postponed to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To recognize the occasion, the Nisga’a flag is flying in the Hall of Honour at the B.C. parliament buildings.
“Twenty years is a significant milestone. An entire generation of Nisga’a young people have grown up as members of a self-governing treaty nation,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan in the release.
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Efforts to negotiate a treaty began as early as 1887, when Nisga’a chiefs travelled to Victoria to demand the negotiation of a treaty and recognition of title and self-government. Canadian laws at the time prevented Indigenous people from raising money to advance land claims.
In 1968, the Nisga’a Tribal Council started legal action in the B.C. Supreme Court and negotiations between the Nisga’a and Canada began in 1976.
The government of British Columbia joined the discussions in 1990. The agreement was signed in Aug. 1998 and came into effect nearly two years later.
There are more than 7,600 members of Nisga’a Nation living mostly in the Nisga’a villages of Gingolx, Laxgalts’ap, Gitwinksihlkw and Gitlaxt’aamiks, while others reside in Terrace, Prince Rupert and the Lower Mainland.
“The 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Nisga’a Treaty is a major milestone in our shared history. Although a great deal has changed in the world around us, the Nisga’a vision for creating a better future for their people has not,” said federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, in the release.
“The treaty is a living and breathing example of reconciliation in action and what we can accomplish when we work together and recognize and respect Indigenous people’s right to self-determination.”