Land-claim debate gets underway at TIB
Pounding drums and children’s voices filled the air as the first meeting on a major land claim by the Tk’emlups Indian Band began this week on the reserve.
Negotiators from the federal and provincial governments’ justice and aboriginal-affairs ministries were at the reserve on Tuesday, Dec. 4, to begin talks on the Douglas Reserve lands, which are aimed at staving off a trial that was due to begin in B.C. Supreme Court this fall.
In 2009, the Tk’emlups band filed a claim for lands that would extend the reserve’s boundaries about 12 kilometres north of the Thompson River confluence and 23 kilometres east.
It argues the band’s reserve originally encompassed the area under claim when it was set out in 1862, by order of colonial governor James Douglas, but was reduced under later administrations.
The band sought damages for the loss of land, as well as a declaration from the federal and provincial governments that they would work to acquire privately held lands in the area for Tk’emlups, if current owners were willing to sell.
The filing came after the federal government twice rejected the Douglas Reserve claim — in 2001 and in 2008.
At a ceremonial opening for the talks, Leslie Patrick, with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s western litigation directorate, said the government prefers to sit down with the band because of the expense of a trial and the uncertainty of the case’s outcome.
Patrick said the federal government is committed to resolving the Douglas Reserve issue and recognizes how serious it is to the band.
Shane Berg, the regional executive director for the provincial Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, was more blunt.
“I do hope we’ll do better than the NHL negotiators over the next little while,” he said.
TIB Chief Shane Gottfriedson said Tuesday’s initial meeting was focused more on the negotiation process than the specifics of the Tk’emlups claim.
“Today is just the kickstart of our discussions with Canada and the province,” he said.
“I think it’s really going to be in nobody’s best interests to start trying to negotiate publicly, but I think we’re going to go and have a conversation about what the next steps are.”
Gottfriedson said he is optimistic about the negotiations, which will continue into 2013.
“We’re not going anywhere. Our friends from the province and Canada are not going anywhere.
“Of course, the people that inhabit our land are not going anywhere,” he said.
“So, we have to find a peaceful way to work through the issues so everybody’s a winner.”