Dianne St. Jean

The Simpcw First Nation responded on Tuesday to the announcement that both federal and provincial levels of government intend to finalize a Treaty with the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.

The map below shows territory claimed by the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. In comparison with the Simpcw First Nation map (above), there is obvious overlapping of territory, including Valemount and Tete Jaune Cache areas.
The map below shows territory claimed by the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. In comparison with the Simpcw First Nation map (above), there is obvious overlapping of territory, including Valemount and Tete Jaune Cache areas.
map credit: www.simpcw.com

The Treaty encroaches on Simpcwul’ew ancestral lands.

Simpcw First Nation never gave consent to have the territory included in the Treaty, and consequently strongly oppose both the Canadian and British Columbian governments’ proceedings with the Lheidli T’enneh.

Nor can the government or the Lheidli T’enneh claim ignorance on the matter.

The Simpcw state they have repeatedly asked both the Crown and the Lheidli T’enneh to provide evidence of the Lheidli T’enneh’s claim to those areas, and to meet with them to resolve the issue.

No evidence was ever provided, say the Simpcw, nor were any attempts to resolve the dispute made by either government or the Lheidli T’enneh.

“Canada and the Province cannot claim to respect Simpcw on a nation to nation basis and [still] proceed with this Treaty,” says a Simpcw statement to the press.

The area pertaining to the Treaty includes large portions of territory in the Valemount area, including Tete Jaune Cache and eastward to Jasper.

Yet, as recently as early March, the Province officially transferred 185 hectares of Crown land in the Tete Jaune Cache and Valemount region to the Simpcw as part of accommodation for the Valemount Glacier Destination resort approval. As part of the Master Development Agreement, accommodation for the Simpcw First Nation included revenue sharing and the transfer of land.

But it’s not just about the resort.

map credit: www.lheidli.ca
map credit: www.lheidli.ca

This was also to re-establish and acknowledge the Simpcw presence in what originally had been much of their territory in the first place.

In August 2016 the Simpcw marked a 100th Anniversary of what was a forced relocation, when they were forced from their territory at Tete Jaune Cache to their present reserve in Chu Chua, 300 kms away. Men, women and children were forced to walk, trekking through the North Thompson Valley.

In fact, historic records show that the Simpcw originally occupied territory just north of Kamloops all the way to present-day Jasper National Park, which of course, includes Tete Jaune.

The land that was transferred to the Simpcw constitutes the northern portion of the Simpcw’s territory, including a historical village site on the banks of the Fraser River and hunting and fishing camps in proximity to the Cranberry Marsh, the Canoe River and the Village of Valemount.

At that time Simpcw First Nation Chief Nathan Matthew stated that “the recognition of our rights to the land and the significant inclusion of our community in this project is a step toward reconciling the challenging history we have in the area.”

Seems like the challenge isn’t quite over.

The Treaty has deep implications for both First Nations, including not only the right to harvest natural resources, but also the right for the Lheidli T’enneh to make laws to manage those resources. The Final Agreement also states that it will give them the authority to participate in any provincially developed public planning process within the Lheidli T’enneh area.

The Agreement also states that the Lheidli T’enneh government may “participate in water planning processes for the Upper Fraser River Watershed and any tributary of the Fraser River” within the area. As well, it states that the Province will establish a Lheidli T’enneh hydro power reservation for identified watersheds to allow them the opportunity to investigate the potential for hydro power development.

And while the Agreement doesn’t list specifically these designations, should these happen to fall into or affect the disputed territory, this has serious implications for both First Nations.

The objective of the Lheidli T’enneh Agreement is to give that Nation the right to govern their own land, an objective that is totally understandable from a First Nations perspective. However, it does little or nothing in achieving the objectives of reconciliation between government and First Nations groups if it creates disputes between relevant parties.

The viewpoint of the Simpcw is that the current treaty process is not working. Their statement reads, “Proceeding to a Final Agreement without resolving our legitimate concerns is inconsistent with any promises for reconciliation between the Crown and First Nations, the honour of the Crown and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By ignoring Simpcw’s title and rights, the Crown is ignoring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.”

The Simpcw desires to resolve this matter; however, they will also use every available avenue to protect Simpcwul’ecw.

“[We] must be able to rely upon our lands and resources, and must be able to exercise our right to make decisions that protect our lands and resources for this and future generations,” says Chief Nathan Matthew.

 

 

 

Simpcw First Nation deeply troubled by Lheidli T’enneh Treaty Agreement with government