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Gitxsan Chiefs Treaty Team update

Gitxsan Chiefs Treaty Team update
06 July 2012

Gitxsan Chiefs Treaty Team Update - Summer 2012

Litigation Foundation

All of the work of the reconciliation discussions have been based on the Delgamuukxw 1997 decision, Yal et al 2002 Decision and Sebastian Forest Appeals decision of 2010. These are all based on our land tenure system, matrilineal social structure, our laws of access onto the territories, and the ability to generate wealth in a sustainable way.

Working Group

These have been tripartite every four to six weeks with the British Columbia Treaty Commission chairing as Keeper of the Process. In 2006 after exhausting all chapter language on some 24 chapters the Simgiigyet stated that the Model was not one of reconciliation. We then engaged Canada and B.C. on exploratory discussions that would not involve the B.C. Model but would seek to recognize our S.35 rights under the Constitution of Canada, not interfere with our matrilineal social structure but allow us to generate revenue off the 33,000 sq km. It would require Canada and B.C. to accommodate our interests on the lands in their legislative objectives directly related to our nation policies on Water, Forestry, Oil and Gas, Wildlife and Minerals. We advanced the Gitxsan Alternative Model which reflected our interests. This was too large so we advanced a smaller portion to establish a working relationship on developing a Gitxsan Resource Management Authority to assist the Simgiigyet in making informed decisions on the land.

We have a team of specialists that have helped us advance and lobby at various levels of Government: Gordon Gibson, Tex Enemark, Harry Swain, Roger Tasse, Claudia Hagen, and Kathy Stumacher

Canada raised the issue that a matrilineal society is an infringement of the Charter of Rights. To deal with this issue we engaged the services of Roger Tasse who is one of the main people that dealt with the revisions to the Constitution in 1982. He assessed this issue and found it to be unfounded. So it reinforced Delgamuukxw 1997 which spoke to the reconciliation of the Pre-existence of Gitxsan Society with the Crown, we do not have to change who we are to achieve reconciliation.

We have worked on three projects this year:

  1. The Gitxsan Training Institute to promote trades training for the purpose of upgrading housing in Gitxsan Communities. We intended to partner with the Indian Act Bands but they did not. The intent was to bring housing up to B.C. Inspection standards and improve the well-being of Families. Here we had B.C. offering training seats in partnership with Northwest Community college.

  2. We have also done work on Strength of Claim for the borders of Gitxsan Territories as in the B.C. Process we have “overlaps” with neighboring Indian Act Bands and Indian Act Tribal Council. This is contrary to our map that has been the same since Delgamuukw 1987. We now are going to be dealing with Kitselas Indian Band and Kitsumkalum Indian Band as they are contemplating an Agreement in Principle.

  3. We received a Treaty Related Measure to deal with ratification and we were able to begin the process of updating contact information of those people who belong to Gitxsan Huwilps. We are 30% complete and are seeking to have two more phases to this work and each Wilp will have a copie of the Geneology and contact information.

  4. The Creation of Gitxsan Development Corporation by teh Simgiigyet also assisted in the creation of a legal tool for the Hereditary Chiefs to receive revenue from the Crown or Proponents.

We left off in the Fall 2011 waiting to hear back formally from Canada and B.C. on the smaller version of the proposal and it would determine if we could move to implement parts of the plan that are workable. This would be a process that very much includes a transition period and creating positive not negative changes for Gitxsan.


We continue to get direction from the Gimlitxwt on issues such as the policy work, ratification issues, and review of any language when we get agreement from Canada and B.C.

Each year efforts are made to have annual strategic planning for the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs. They remain the decision makers on things like the direction of the watershed tables, the creation and implementation of the GDC, GFEI, and major projects that may go through Gitxsan Laxyip.

Gitxsan Development Corporation will also be the entity to vet Gitxsan Economic Opportunities under the direction of the Simgiigyet of the Gimlitxwt

We will also be pursuing the Long Term Forestry Agreement and it will be handled by GDC to implement the Revenue Sharing and potential economic opportunities flowing from this. We have worked with legal counsel on a terms of agreement which was based on outstanding issues the Simgiigyet had from the Short Term Forestry Agreement.

Every year at the Gitxsan Summit the Gimlitxwt receives a report from the Negotiating Team and the Gaayuhadiit (Board). The audited statements of the Gitxsan Treaty Society are presented in detail with a question period. As well, presentations are made by companies that are engaged with the watersheds, Gitxsan Huwilp and potentially individual Wilps.

Gitxsan Treaty Society

Each year the Board creates a workplan for the year building on the work of the previous year and direction given at the Gimlitxwt. They also create a budget to match the workplan for submission to the BCTC. They have their annual general meeting in preparation for the Annual Gitxsan Summit.

Since 2009 they have also been dealing with the Spookw Litigation in which allegations of oppression are made by the Indian Act Bands and Simgiigyet along with some wing chiefs.

It is important to understand that the Gitxsan entered treaty negotiations using our matrilineal Hereditary system and land tenure structure. This is very different that the Indian Act Bands which are agents of the Federal Crown and only have jurisdiction on lands reserved for Indians. We are only one of three treaty tables in the Province of B.C. that entered this way. It is part of the implementation of Delgamuukxw that speaks to reconciliation of our pre-existence with the Crown. It is also important that the Simoogit is the Proper Title Holder and only they can reconcile with the Crown. Protection of the S.35 rights also does not mean we sign anything away but protect our rights within the Canadian Constitution and having our interests fully accommodated.

Common Table

In the interests of protecting the Hereditary System the Gitxsan played a key role in the common table. Six topics were identified for discussion: Governance, Shared Decision making, Fish, Recognition/ Certainty, Status of Lands and Fiscal matters. Canada appointed Barry Dewar to by their representative and B.C. had the late Jack Ebbels. In a period of 3 months much effort went into First Nations presenting their ideas, along with Canada and B.C. A report was generated by the BCTC in August of 2008

Our Negotiator was selected by the 63 participating groups as a spokesperson for the topics of Governance and Shared decision making and this allow us to protect the interests again of our matrilineal land tenure system and advance our interests in true reconciliation with the Crown. As a spokesperson the negotiator sought out a variety of interests in the topic areas and along with a technician and legal counsel presented the interests at a tripartite table with Canada and B.C. After which we collective identified potential opportunities.

Further to this work we are now going to be examining Recognition and Certainty language

Chief Negotiators Forum

Part of the role of the First Nations Summit is work with Chief Negotiators from the various tables amongst First Nations. They hold quarterly meetings to discuss relevant issues and create position papers for use in Principal’s meetings for the B.C. Treaty Process. These meetings are held every 3-6 months with the First Nations Summit Task Group, Minister of ANNDC(Canada) and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (B.C.)

Our Negotiator was elected by the Chief Negotiator Forum to be the Chair of the forum. This involves chairing the meetings, setting the agenda, and now chairing the afternoon of Day one of the Summit. Again this gives the Gitxsan an opportunity to protect our interests at the Provincial level.

All Chief Task Force

Another opportunity arose to protect and advance Gitxsan Interests when the First Nation Leadership Council was attempting to create Recognition Legislation on the basis of “reconstituting” nations and binding nations to a certain framework that did not meet Gitxsan structure as hereditary people. There was an All Chief’s meeting in the summer of 2010 and we presented a declaration with our Gitanyow and Wet’suwet’en neighbours stating our objection to the process and our interests of being matrilineal with a land tenure system. A committee was struck and our negotiator was asked to chair. The committee reviewed support for the FNLC using an unbiased outside consultant and the support for the FNLC was still there. Also a public awareness campaign on aboriginal rights and title was carried out and work on a political/ legal strategy was begun. A report was generated in December 2010 and presented back the Chiefs in B.C. and the Task Force was disbanded. The BCAFN carries forward the recommendations of the work of this group