Tŝilhqot’in, Canada and B.C. sign ‘reconciliation agreement’ in support of self-determination

The Tŝilhqot’in National Government and its six member First Nations have signed a ‘reconciliation agreement’ with Canada and the Government of British Columbia.

Tŝilhqot’in, provincial and federal leaders met in Williams Lake, B.C. Wednesday to celebrate the new Gwets’en Nilt’i Pathway Agreement, which the governments are touting as a “historic reconciliation agreement to support Tsilhqot’in self-determination.”

A news release from the three governments calls Gwets’en Nilt’i “a tangible expression of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognizes every Nation has unique and distinct paths to self-determination.”

The agreement purportedly commits the three governments to “sustained progress on eight Tŝilhqot’in priorities,” including self-governance, language and culture, children and families, healthy communities, justice, education and training, lands, water and resources, and economic development.

It will also support the transition to Tŝilhqot’in governance in the declared title area as recognized in the Tŝilhqot’in Nation Decision.

In 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada declared the Tŝilhqot’in have Aboriginal title to roughly 1,750 square kilometres of land in B.C.’s Interior.

“This Agreement sets the table for that work and sets a pathway together to bring these commitments to life in a way that reflects our aspirations as Tŝilhqot’in peoples,” Tl’esqox First Nation Chief Francis Laceese said Wednesday.

Following the landmark ruling in 2014, the Tŝilhqot’in have signed a number of letters and agreements with the provincial and federal governments.

In 2016 they signed the Nenqay Deni Accord — or “The People’s Accord” — with B.C. “to establish the shared vision, principles and structures for the Parties to negotiate one or more agreements to effect a comprehensive and lasting reconciliation between the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and British Columbia.”

In 2017 the Tŝilhqot’in and Canada signed a “letter of understanding” stating their commitment to “renewing and strengthening their nation-to-nation relationship, and negotiating in good faith to achieve a lasting reconciliation for the Tsilhqot’in people.”

In November 2018 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Tŝilhqot’in on their title lands at Chilko Lake, where he exonerated six war chiefs who were wrongfully hanged during the Chilcotin War of 1864.

Tŝilhqot’in Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse told APTN News that the reconciliation agreement has “been in the works since…we won Aboriginal title,” and that it represents an important step toward independence for his people.

“We as Indigenous people, we have to believe that as long we’re persistent and we keep moving things will eventually turn around, and I think that is happening,” he said.

Video Journalist / Kitimat Village, B.C.

Lee is a video journalist with APTN News, who shoots, reports and edits stories out of northern British Columbia. As a member of the Haisla Nation, Lee is proud to call Kitimat Village home again after living on Vancouver Island for 18 years. He has a passion for storytelling and looks forward to sharing stories through the lens of First Nations people.