Nisga’a and Gitanyow dispute fishing rights on northern B.C. river

A fishing site on the Nass River in northern British Columbia is the centre of a battle over territory, tradition and rights.

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs say they have the right to fish there. But the Nisga’a Lisims Government say the Gitanyow are trespassing, and that they want their neighbours out.

On July 26 the Gitanyow, who are part of the Gitxsan Nation, received a notice of trespass from the RCMP.

The complaint originated with the Nisga’a Lisims Government, and the Gitanyow were given 24 hours to vacate the Nass River fishing site.

But Gitanyow say they’re not leaving.

The Nisga’a say their modern treaty negotiated with the government in 2000 is evidence the land and fishing rights belongs to them.

“The Nisgaa nation has owned and occupied Nisgaa lands including the Nass River since the time immemorial. We have 26,000 square KMs of traditional land the Nisga’a have used,” according to Nisga’a Lisims Government President Eva Clayton.

“The Nisga’a Nation unequivocally rejects identifying the Gitanyow trespass as a territorial dispute.”

According to Chief Malii, President of Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, the government “created the problem” of competing claims to the land.

Gitanyow elders also say their people have used the land for generations.

Both sides are looking for clarity from the provincial government.

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