by Andru McCracken
The Lheidli T’enneh, a First Nation based in Prince George, is one step closer to signing a treaty with the province of British Columbia that would give them rights on Crown land throughout the Robson Valley. The Lheidli T’enneh initialed the final wording on the treaty and the band will vote on it this summer. If it passes, the treaty would give the band permanent rights on that land.
Chief Nathan Matthew of the Simpcw First Nation expressed his concerns in a press release on Tuesday morning. Matthew said he has not seen evidence that the Lheidli T’enneh occupied this area.
He said the treaty could give the Lheidli T’enneh wide-ranging rights impinging on the rights of the Simpcw First Nation.
“We believe that they will be able to carry out planning over the natural resources with regards to wildlife, fisheries without consulting us, or carry out development planning, economic development planning without having to consult with the Simpcw First Nation,” said Matthew.
The Goat reached out to the Lheidli T’enneh on Tuesday morning about the treaty but didn’t hear back by press time later that day.,
Matthew said the Simpcw Nation has inherent rights based on the Canadian constitution and recent court cases.
“We have a strong inherent right and strong claim to that area, the Robson Valley, Valemount and the Upper Columbia Basin. Our right to make decisions, planning, land use […] will be diminished by this treaty,” said Matthew.
“These lands could be permanently alienated from us,” said Matthew. “Run of the river power projects, resort development, fish and game harvesting plans … They don’t have to consult with us.”
Matthew said the treaty commission has not addressed the issues of overlap and this should have been done before the Lheidli T’enneh arrived at this final stage.
“The BC treaty process has provisions within it at different stages of treaty making to address these overlap issues. That treaty making process has not done that.”
He adds this is not the only BC treaty with serious overlap issues.
A website devoted to the treaty, ourvoiceyourfuture.com, outlines the Lheidli T’enneh’s commitment to work with other First Nations:
“So the first step is that we will talk in good faith with our neighbouring First Nations and will continue to work to resolve remaining issues,” the website reads.
However, Matthew said the Lheidli T’enneh have not contacted them regarding overlap issues or disclosed the research on use and occupancy that backs the claim.
The BC Treaty Commission said the issue is to be resolved between First Nations.
“First Nations resolve issues related to overlapping traditional territories among themselves,” stated Communications Advisor Odette Wilson of the BC Treaty Commission.
The Simpcw First Nation has roughly 700 members and has a reserve close to Barriere, BC. In 1916 a small First Nations settlement at Tete Jaune was relocated there. They were recently awarded lands from the Province as part of a deal involving Valemount Glacier Destinations resort. The Lheidli T’enneh have roughly 415 members. Their band office is based in Prince George.