Kitkatla has dropped its application to the courts seeking an injunction against the proposed sale of Watson Island, but as of November 18 are now asking the court to provide “a declaration that the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band is not a proper collective capable of holding or claiming Aboriginal title or rights to the site”.
In the argument, Chief Elmer Moody on behalf of the Gitxaala Nation argues that the declaration is needed based on the history of Lax Kw’alaams.
“Historically the Nine Tribes were separate tribes each of which held specific Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights, some of which related to the Prince Rupert harbour area. Historically there was no inheritance structure by which the Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights held by one of the Nine Tribes could be passed to another of the Nine Tribes or any other Ts’msyen tribe or to an entity such as the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band. There is not, and has never been, a collectivity of title such that the Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights held separately by the Nine Tribes has vested in the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band” reads the filing.
“Only one or more of the Nine Tribes or another Ts’msyen tribe such as the Gitxaala Nation could make such a claim at law; and the collective ownership model practiced by the Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band never has been a feature of traditional Ts’msyen societies. Because Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band is not a proper collective capable of holding or claiming Aboriginal title or rights to the Site, there is no valid overlapping claim of asserted Aboriginal title and rights to the Site competing with the asserted claim of the Gitxaala Nation.”
For its part, Lax Kw’alaams says the striking of the request for an injunction helps settle the land issue in the Prince Rupert harbour.
“This is an important precedent for all future development in the Prince Rupert area. Kitkatla brought an action to stop a development based on lack of consultation for asserted title, and by not being able to provide any credible evidence and abandoning their injunction is sufficient to suggest their claim to aboriginal rights and title over the core of the territory of the Coast Tsimshian was frivolous at best,” said Chief Garry Reece, noting that he sees Kitkatla’s traditional territory as having largely been “some distance south of Prince Rupert” in the past.
“We have always respected their original traditional territory boundary. We are happy that this court action has resulted in an abandonment of their claim to our territory.”
Kitkatla Chief Elmer Moody was unavailable for comment as of press time.