The Kitselas, among other Native groups, were self-governing long before European contact.
The Indian Act was passed in 1876 without the consultation or consent of the Native people; it was simply imposed. The long-standing political and economic systems that had sustained our people were outlawed and Native people became prisoners of the reserve system and an institution that continues to oppress them.
The Indian Act was developed to control almost every aspect of Native life and continues to dictate the way Native people are governed on-reserve.
Negotiating a treaty offers one path towards self-governance and getting Kitselas out from under the Indian Act.
The Kitselas Treaty Team and negotiators from both the Governments of BC and Canada usually meet monthly to negotiate chapters in the Final Agreement.
The Kitselas Final Agreement is to be based on an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP), to which the Kitselas people voted to accept in 2015. Ratification of the AIP gave the Kitselas Treaty team the go ahead to continue to negotiate towards a final treaty.
The Kitselas Treaty Team is made up of:
• Kitselas Chief Negotiator, Judy Gerow
• Document Control, Clarisa Spencer
• Tsimshian First Nations Treaty Society Chief Negotiator, Gerald Wesley
• Negotiations Advisor, Mark Stevenson
The British Columbia Treaty Commission (BCTC), known as the ‘Keepers of the Treaty Process’ are also at the negotiating table.
The Tsimshian First Nations Treaty Society (TFNTS) represents both Kitselas and Kitsumkalum First Nations at their respective negotiations table. While both nations are negotiating their own final agreements, the nations and treaty teams work closely together.
Each negotiations session usually lasts three days. Negotiations are broken down into sessions, with each session scheduled on separate days:
1. Chief Negotiators Session
Where all of high level discussions and decisions are made regarding the Kitselas Final Agreement. This includes important agenda items such as overlap consultation, strength of claim, Forestry Agreements, land and cash offers, and the Final Agreement closing plan.
2. Main Table Working Group
Where Working Group updates are reported, and edits to the Final Agreement language are negotiated and decided. Various language proposals are brought to this table and depending on the Chapters being discussed, edits to the Final Agreement are made here.
Where allocation for Food, Social and Ceremonial fish and other species are discussed, and Final Agreement Chapter language is decided on and inserted into the Final Agreement.
The goal of the Kitselas Treaty is to get Kitselas out from under the Indian Act and make the nation self-governing. Out of the 6 stages of the BC negotiations process, Kitselas is in Stage 5, negotiating a Final Agreement.
Kitselas has been at the treaty negotiations table with the Governments of Canada and BC since 1995.
Treaty is overseen by BC Treaty Commission which has a set process in place for negotiations.
Treaty Related Measures
Aside from negotiating the actual Treaty, the Kitselas Treaty Team along with hired experts in the field, do data collection, host community meetings, and complete research, to support Kitselas’ position on any given topic at the negotiating table.
All of this costs money. For example, funds for consultants, meeting spaces, refreshments, copying documents, and the labour it takes to complete these tasks.
Treaty Related Measures (TRMs) are money that helps us complete these tasks. Most First Nations do not have the extra resources to complete these tasks without TRMs. They are designed to help First Nations move negotiations along, by addressing their concerns and help them undertake required work while treaty negotiations are underway.
TRMs do not need to be paid back; they are not part of the treaty loan. TRM funds are provided from Canada to facilitate research on specific topics to support Treaty negotiations. All funds are monitored by the Federal Government, and reporting is mandatory.
In addition to regular negotiations, Kitselas Treaty is working to prepare the Nation for what they would need should a final agreement happen.
As part of treaty negotiations and path to self-governance, Kitselas Treaty is currently working with the community to draft a Kitselas Constitution. We’ve hosted several meetings to develop the Constitution and gather input from Kitselas members.
Working Groups are where the technical, and research work gets done by Kitselas, BC, Canada, and they are experts in the field. This research assists the Treaty Negotiation Table. Recent and current working groups include:
- Main Table Working Group – Language in the Final Agreement is edited here. The closing plan which is a timeline of Stage 5 negotiations, is also revised as tasks get started up or completed.
- Lands Technical Working Group – Research and data are collected on gravel pits, roads, Indian Reserves etc. to assist with the Land Package offer.
- Fisheries Technical Working Group – Technical research is done here by the Federal and Provincial teams, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Kitselas to prepare for Negotiations.
- Forestry Working Group – Technicalwork regarding Forestry Fund Agreements between Kitselas, Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resources Operations, and British Columbia
- Fiscal Working Group – Federal Fiscal staff review new approaches and policies implemented by the Federal Government that effect the Kitselas Treaty Negotiations Table.
- Water Working Group – Research on rivers, streams, and their water volumes, available flow and models for water allocations in the Final Agreement.
- Legal Working Group – Lawyers review each chapter once complete and any language that needs further legal clarification to be Final Agreement ready.
Repatriation of Artifacts
Part of Treaty negotiations includes the repatriation of cultural artifacts, meaning the return of Kitselas objects well over 100 years old.
Presently, the Treaty Research team is identifying Kitselas works in the Canadian Museum of History and the Royal British Columbia Museum. Kitselas will see the return of ethnographic, archeological and archival collections.
Many of pieces are linked to being purchased on Kitselas reserve lands or purchased from a Kitselas person, or in many cases wrongfully purchased.
All artifacts, once returned, must have proper storage facilities and security measures in place.
The Kitselas Treaty Department also deals with Kitselas’ specific claims.
Specific claims deal with the past grievances of First Nations. These grievances relate to Canada’s obligations under historic treaties or the way it managed First Nation funds or assets.
The Government of Canada resolves these claims by negotiating settlements with First Nations. Kitselas Specific Claims include:
• Lot 113
• Copper River
• Highway 16
• Grand Trunk Railway
Some claims have been successful, others are still in process, while others have failed.