Tahltan Nation, B.C. gov’t sign a historic agreement under the Declaration Act

Tahltan Central Government President Chad Norman Day says the signing is the first consent-based agreement under the Declaration of The Rights of Indigenous People’s Act with the province of British Columbia.

“I am deeply honoured that we are the first indigenous group in British Columbia that did a signing agreement like this,” he shared.

In a press release, Norman Day added that reconciliation requires ongoing innovation.

“Reconciliation is not achieved with just one step,” he said in a news release June 3. “It requires ongoing innovation, collaboration and leaning into discomfort.

“For the Tahltan people, strengthening and preserving our culture, values and independence is why we keep pushing forward on this journey.”

Tahltan territory is located in northern B.C.; it makes up 11 per cent of the province.

The government started negotiations with the Tahltan in the summer of 2021.

The agreement will give decisions around jurisdiction and land management to the Tahltan nation on their territory.

Premier John Horgan said his government is delivering on reconciliation while encouraging response investment in B.C. with this new agreement.

“British Columbia is open for business and collaborative way, in a sustainable way that starts and begins with the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples to have a say in what happens on their territory and how we can go forward together in the interest of all British Columbians,” he said.

The Declaration Act passed into law in 2019.

According to mining company Skeena Resources, Eskay Creek Mine operated in Tahltan territory from 1994 to 2008, and was the highest grade-producing gold mine in the world.

But the company says the mine never got consent from the Tahltan to operate in the territory.

At the press conference, Skeena Resources vice-president of external affairs Justin Himmelright said they acquired the mine in 2020, and have been working with the Tahltan nation to advance and re-open the mine.

“So it was a very, very important step for the project and a foundational building block for the revitalization and re-opening of the Eskay Creek project,” he said.

The Tahltan said it has been clear that even though their territory is mineral rich, there will be no mining without their stewardship of wildlife, fisheries and environmental management.

Day said their values need to be at the heart of projects.

“It’s extremely important that moving forward that Tahltan rights, Tahltan decisions and Tahltan values are at the heart of all of these projects, “ he said. “I often tell people whether the government is orange, red or green, the Tahltan nation is always going to be covered in a lot of gold, silver, copper and a lot of other minerals.

“It’s important that we build these structures and we do it properly.”