The Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose) First Nation signed an incremental treaty agreement with the provincial government Tuesday that will see two parcels of land totalling 6.4 hectares transferred in fee simple over the next three years.
The agreement was one of five signed by First Nations constituting the Te’mexw Treaty Association, who have worked through the B.C. treaty process since 1995.
The other Te’mexw nations to sign an agreement at Tuesday’s ceremony are T’Sou-ke (Sooke), Scia’new (Beecher Bay), Malahat First Nation and Songhees Nation (Esquimalt).
“It’s good news, the people are happy because we finally get to see something after [nearly] 25 years of waiting,” said Snaw-naw-as Chief David Bob. “It means that we’re hopefully getting closer to a treaty.
“Both governments need to take this serious and start bringing things to the table that mean something to the First Nations.”
The land parcels are Crown land and located within Snaw-naw-as traditional territory, off of Fairdowne Road in the Regional District of Nanaimo. Under fee simple, the same laws, bylaws and regulations apply to the land as they would on any other privately owned land.
“What it means is we can finally start working with companies to get some type of economic development happening without having to worry about the Indian Act,” Bob said.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and log it all tomorrow, we’re going to sit back, study it, see what’s the best use for that area.
“We’re going to … involve our community and the outlying communities where the property is.”
The purpose of an incremental treaty agreement is to bring benefits more quickly to First Nations communities which are undergoing the treaty process by advancing portions of a future complete settlement package.
According to information from the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, the lands could potentially become treaty settlement lands if a treaty is finalized.
If a treaty isn’t reached, the land is still retained by the First Nation as fee simple.
Snaw-naw-as is currently in stage four of six of agreement-in-principle negotiations in the B.C. treaty process.
Bob said while the agreement is cause for celebration, First Nations members are also taking time to remember those involved in the treaty process who are no longer alive to see the progress being made.
“We’ve lost about five or six elders,” he said.