Blueberry and Doig first nations sign Treaty Land Entitlement settlement
Chiefs and councillors representing Blueberry River First Nations and Doig River First Nation signed a Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) settlement Monday.
The descendants of the Fort St. John Beaver Band received 13,000 acres less than what they were entitled to under Treaty 8. After around two decades of negotiations with provincial and federal governments, members of the first nations voted in favour of the TLE settlement on June 15.
Blueberry River Chief Judy Desjarlais said “It was an enormous lower amount of land than what we actually had. Based on our treaty the settlement means compensation for what we lost.”
The signing was an emotional day for Desjarlais. She wished deceased elders like Lana Wolf could have been in attendance.
A sentiment echoed by others at the historic event who recognized over 100 years of suffering as a result of the unfulfilled treaty promise.
Doig River Chief Trevor Makadahay said he thought of his “grandmother and all the elders that went through the hard times.”
Makadahay said the step towards a fulfilled treaty promise creates opportunity for future generations like his children.
“We have 15,000 acres within BC that are cultural and those lands will be protected for him to practice our culture in the future,” he said.
Doig River is already planning for commercial, residential and recreational properties in and around Fort St. John along with other parts of their traditional terrority. Last week, the first nation held a ground breaking at the future home of Nachee Commons across from Margaret Ma Murray Community School.
Meanwhile, Blueberry River Councillor Robin Ewaskow said her first nation is also hoping to develop closer to the city to help members of all ages.
“What do they need? Do we need an elder care facility within proximity to Fort St. John in the event we have a medical emergency and were not waiting hours, hours and hours for an ambulance to come to our community?”
While final part of the TLE settlement continues, Desjarlais is pleased to see the legal accomplishment by the decedents of the former Fort St. John Beaver Band.
“You know government strategy is always to divide nations so that they can actually play nation against nation but we’ve the power today where two nations come together and actually unify to get things to move forward” she said.
While the two first nations have come together on a final agreement, both B.C., and Alberta have to sign the TLE settlement. Along with the federal government which is expected to put the final stamp on the land negotiation in the next six months.