After decades of negotiations, Haida Nation, B.C., sign land agreement

Leaders from both the Haida Nation and the B.C. government gathered in ceremony on Haida Gwaii to cement the title agreement into history.

Negotiations for the Haida Title Lands Agreement started two decades ago. The deal will return the 200 islands of Haida Gwaii to the nation located off the coast of northern B.C.

Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, president of the Haida Nation, thanked everyone for coming to witness the historic day on Haida Gwaii.

“It’s a continuation of many years of work in our recent times since the coming of the crown,” he said at the April 11 event. “This is carrying forward of our inherent Haida Title that has been passed down to us from our ancestors and the responsibilities that comes with it.”

The agreement will shift Crown land on the islands of Haida Gwaii back to the Haida. According to the provincial government, the transfer will be carried out in stages, but private property will not be affected.

The province will still be responsible for infrastructure and services.

B.C. Premier David Eby said this agreement was long overdue, speaking to the crowd.

“What we have done here together is something that the courts have been telling governments and Canada to do for many generations now,” he said. “That the provincial and federal governments need to sit down with First Nations governments and recognize title.”

The Haida Nation gifted Eby with a blanket made by Musqueam weaver Debra Sparrow.

B.C. Indigenous Relations Minster Murray Rankin stressed the importance of resolving matters through negotiations.

“We could have been facing each other in a courtroom, we could have been fighting each other for years and years, but we chose a different path, we chose a path that requires creativity and courage; we got there together because we are trying to create a better future for our children,” he said.

Gaagwiis said the signing put to rest any debate or conflict around the lands, and they can now move forward together.

“It’s an important time and it lays the foundation for a future together where we can acknowledge the truth, acknowledge history but also look forward to build a brighter future for the Haida Nation, the people of Haida Gwaii and provide hope and inspiration,” he said,

Haida Gwaii is located 100 km off the B.C. coast and is made up of more than 200 islands, totalling approximately 1 million hectares.

B.C. will introduce legislation later this month to formally recognize Haida title in provincial law.

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