A territorial dispute over the Nasoga Gulf, an inlet north of Lax Kw’alaams village and south of Gingolx, has gone public.
On June 7, the Nine Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian — Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams — are holding an information blockade near the Kasiks Bridge on Highway 16, between Prince Rupert and Terrace.
The Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams is stating that provincial government is in the process of transferring the Nasoga Gulf Lands to the Nisga’a Nation — land they say is traditionally part of Coast Tsimshian territory. Now they want the public to know that they intend to protect their land, and will not allow the province to sell the Nasoga Gulf Lands to the Nisga’a.
“We strongly oppose the transfer of our land and will defend it vigorously. It would cause irreparable harm to us and unjustifiably infringe our Aboriginal Title while undermining provincial reconciliation efforts with the Nine Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian,” as stated in a full-page advertisement on the back of the June 6 edition of The Northern View and Terrace Standard.
The Coast Tsimshian Nation consists of approximately 4,885 members of Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams. According to the media advisory, these members would consider liquefied natural gas (LNG) development within the Nasoga Gulf Lands.
While the Nisga’a Lisims Government didn’t respond to requests for an interview, the nation announced in 2016 it wanted to purchase approximately 22,000 hectares of provincial Crown land, including Nasoga Gulf Lands, for the purpose of attracting LNG development.
|Territory of the Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams, according to a Feb. 15, 2018 map that was submitted into a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.|
“We are currently in discussions with the Nisga’a Nation about a potential Crown land sale in Nasoga Gulf. It’s important to note that no agreement regarding any land sale would be signed without full consultation with neighbouring First Nations,” said Sarah Plank, communications director for the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in an email.
Last year, Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band and Mayor John Helin claimed Aboriginal title and rights over the Nasoga Gulf, as well as Grassy Point, Lax K’walaams, and the Tsimshian Peninsula. A map of the territory was drawn up and submitted on March 22, 2018 when Lax Kw’alaams filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against the Attorney General of Canada and the provincial government.
The claim, which has yet to be addressed by the courts, is in response to Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act. If the bill is passed it would ban crude oil tankers from stopping, or unloading at ports on land the Nine Tribes say is theirs to manage.
There is interest from some members of Lax Kw’alaams, including Mayor Helin’s brother, Calvin Helin, to create an energy corridor from Alberta through their territory. But the federal government’s bill would stop any crude oil or persistent oil project in its tracks.
While the fate of Bill C-48 currently rests in Ottawa with the Senate, the discussions over selling Nasoga Gulf Land to the Nisga’a has caused another barrier to the Nine Tribes managing Crown land they say is Coast Tsimshian territory.
Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams say they are proposing “a path forward that will see a mutually beneficial alternative to the proposed Nasoga Gulf Lands transfer. One where everyone, including the Nine Tribes, Nisga’a Nation, the region and the province will benefit.”
However, the proposed solution has “fallen on deaf ears” to both the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
In response, the province said they are “currently engaged in consultations with Lax Kw’alaams Band and Metlakatla First Nation on the proposed transaction, and officials have met with representatives from the nations on two occasions recently. We take our responsibility to consult very seriously.”
Lax Kw’alaams is offering a community information session on the Nasoga Gulf dispute on June 5-6 with members.
The information blockade will take place on June 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with members of the Nine Tribes stopping traffic to share information with the public on the proposed sale, and how they intended to protect their land.
Shannon Lough | Editor
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