Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C., Tsilhqot'in to Mark Historic Supreme Court Anniversary with Five-Year Deal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C., Tsilhqot'in to Mark Historic Supreme Court Anniversary with Five-Year Deal

Article excerpt

Five-year deal to mark Tsilhqot'in anniversary

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VICTORIA - A horse-drawn wagon train carrying aboriginal youths and elders is slowly rolling and rumbling this week towards the Williams Lake Stampede from central British Columbia's Nemiah Valley.

It's an annual First Nations' rite of passage, but, this year's 200-kilometre trek over the wind-swept Chilcotin Plateau is different, says Tsilhqot'in Nation Chief Roger William, a former champion bull rider.

It falls on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada decision that granted to the Tsilhqot'in aboriginal title to more than 1,750 square kilometres of land in the Nemiah Valley, a mountainous area with pristine lakes, alpine valleys and amazingly, wild horses.

The June 26, 2014, decision was the first time a Canadian court declared aboriginal title to lands outside of a reserve, a ruling that's been labelled a game changer by legal experts, governments, investors and First Nations.

The history making is not over, though. William said he expects the seven Tsilhqot'in Nation chiefs to sign on Friday a five-year protocol with the B.C. government, setting the terms and goals for negotiating land, governance and resource agreements over the vast territory that encompasses much of central B.C.'s coastal mountain area.

"We've been across Canada since the title win, meeting companies, First Nations and governments," said William, who is chief of the Xeni Gwetin First Nation.

"We've met people like the James Bay Cree, the Haida Nation. We're looking at meeting the Nisga'a. We were up in the Yukon. We did updates with the Union of B.C. Municipalities."

During a gathering last year of 400 First Nations' leaders and Premier Christy Clark's Liberal cabinet, William said the court handed aboriginals a club. He said First Nations could use it to convince governments and others that they had to be included in decisions that concerned their lands and lives. …

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