Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams stood together in solidarity on June 7, on a territorial dispute with the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams stood together in solidarity on June 7, on a territorial dispute with the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Lands not for sale: Coast Tsimshian blockade

Nisga’a Nation says the opposition to their land transaction is politically motivated

“Coast Tsimshian lands not for sale”, read one of the signs along the Skeena Highway on Friday afternoon.

Members of Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla, who represent the Nine Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian, temporarily blocked traffic to share their message — “The province’s action will prevent economic development for all.”

The B.C. government has been in discussions with the Nisga’a Nation to sell Crown land at Nasoga Gulf, land that both the Coast Tsimshian and the Nisga’a Nation say has been part of their territory since time immemorial.

The proposed transaction began in late 2014. The Nisga’a announced their intention to purchase the land publicly in 2016 in the hopes of developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. A public dispute over the land surfaced this week with the Coast Tsimshian media campaign and blockade calling on the government to find a solution with them, and avoid conflict.

Lax Kw’alaams Mayor John Helin, Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton, traditional hereditary chiefs and Coast Tsimshian members stood in solidarity over the issue at the blockade along one lane of Highway 16 on June 7.

“It was a sharing of why we’re here, and what we’re doing, and that we gave no consent, nor do we plan to in the future, and that we are working together, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams as the Coast Tsimshian, and we want to bring the government together with us for a meeting to find solutions that will meet everybody’s needs,” said Joycelynn Mitchell, spokesperson for Metlakatla.

For two hours, Mitchell and others walked up to cars, handing out a letter from Leighton and Helin titled “Provincial government betrays all First Nations and its’ own principles by trying to unilaterally sell Nine Tribes Land to the Nisga’a Nation. But we have a solution that would benefit everyone.”

READ MORE: Coast Tsimshian release demands and shared solutions on land dispute with Nisga’a

Members waved flags, sang songs and danced, as trucks and cars slowly drove by, some honking their horns in support. BC Highways and Terrace RCMP were also on scene.

Metlakatla member, Wayne Haldane, was heading to Terrace for a job interview when he saw the blockade.

“It’s our territory right? I didn’t think the government could take that away from us,” Haldane said.

Stan Dennis, the spokesperson for Lax Kw’alaams said they chose this location because it’s on the joint reserve between the two communities of Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla.

“We just want to raise awareness and point out the fact that this highway that’s on a reserve and the railway, it’s passing through our reserve and we didn’t give consent for a highway or a railway to go through but it’s here. So you know, it’s a perfect place to raise awareness in regards to trespasses or raise awareness, in particular, to the territory of the Nine Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian,” Dennis said.

Hours after the blockade began, the Nisga’a Lisims Government sent out a press release stating that the recent opposition is “politically motivated.”

The Nisga’a Nation said the lands they intend to purchase is part of their territory where they claim to have constitutionally protected rights and co-management responsibilities under the Nisga’a Treaty.

The treaty with the provincial and federal government came into effect in May 2000. The agreement recognizes the Nisga’a Lisims Government as its own democratic, decision-making government within their territory.

“Over the last three years, Nisga’a Lisims Government has made repeated attempts to meet with our neighbours, Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla, and discuss this land purchase, but our efforts were rebuffed,” said Eva Clayton, president of Nisga’a Lisims Government, in the press release.

“Essentially, we are purchasing our own land at fair market value — lands that are already included in our Treaty areas—so that we can pursue economic development to benefit the Nisga’a Nation and all British Columbians.”

A meeting was proposed with the Coast Tsimshian for June 11, according to the Nisga’a Nation, to discuss the land transaction, but the blockade took place before the meeting and Clayton said she doesn’t know why they waited until now to take this position.

READ MORE: Coast Tsimshian to hold information blockade on land transfer to Nisga’a

In response to the dispute, one of the seven Tsimshian band leaders, Kitselas sit-in-Chief Councillor Judy Gerow, said government officials need to do their homework and approach all seven Tsimshian bands for approval, and not just cherry pick one or two. Gerow just wrapped up a five-day Elder Knowledge Sharing event with band members from across Canada.

Gerow said that Tsimshian bands need to come together to discuss territorial disputes.

“There never used to be [territorial disputes]. There’s a map that was circulated here that showed from the very beginning of treaty negotiations in the 1970s, 1980s that Tsimshian Nation together formed our statement of intent, which is our territory. The whole Tsimshian Nation formed the territory, which included seven Tsimshian bands. That’s what we use today during negotiations,” Gerow said.

“I’ve heard it being said that things have started breaking up, there’s been issues between different Tsimshian communities, and it’s because of industry.”

The Coast Tsimshian have said they recognize the need to develop LNG opportunities in a responsible way but if the Nasoga Gulf Lands are sold to the Nisga’a “everyone will lose.”

In the letter handed out at the blockade it states: “LNG proponents will not invest in this area if there is a conflict on these lands and we have already heard these concerns from industry. We ask ourselves, why would the province of B.C. see fit to risk LNG development in this area and confine citizens of both the Nisga’a Nation and the Nine Tribes to continued poverty?”

In one of the shared solutions offered the Coast Tsimshian say they are willing to share the benefits of LNG development with the Nisga’a Nation.

With files from Brittany Gervais and Quinn Bender


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Coast Tsimshian members stood next to Highway 16 near Kasiks River to publicly announce their opposition with the B.C. government and its intention to sell Nasoga Gulf lands to the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Coast Tsimshian members stood next to Highway 16 near Kasiks River to publicly announce their opposition with the B.C. government and its intention to sell Nasoga Gulf lands to the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Coast Tsimshian members stood next to Highway 16 near Kasiks River to publicly announce their opposition with the B.C. government and its intention to sell Nasoga Gulf lands to the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Coast Tsimshian members stood next to Highway 16 near Kasiks River to publicly announce their opposition with the B.C. government and its intention to sell Nasoga Gulf lands to the Nisga’a Nation. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Just Posted

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
YPR is not immune to plummeted air travel demands – 25 jobs lost

Prince Rupert Regional Airport flight cancellation will levee significant hardship - Rick Leach

Air Canada announced on Jan 13, that it is reducing operations by 25 per cent affecting flights into and from Prince Rupert.
Flights to Prince Rupert cancelled

Air Canada announced reduction in operation and more than 1,700 employees affected

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Most Read