Sto:lo Nation official wants more cities to recognize unceded First Nations territory

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      Vancouver is “setting an example” for other municipalities by looking at formally acknowledging that the city lies on the unceded traditional territory of three First Nations, according to a Sto:lo Nation official.

      David Schaepe, director and senior archaeologist of the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre and technical advisor for the Sto:lo Xwexwilmexw Treaty Association, told the Georgia Straight he hopes “all” municipalities in Sto:lo territory will “follow suit”. The Sto:lo Nation is composed of 11 First Nations in the Fraser Valley.

      “There’s some significant municipalities in this area, and within them, I would say, significant holes or gaps in the recognition of the aboriginal peoples—particularly Sto:lo peoples—that historically and continually have occupied the places within those municipal boundaries,” Schaepe said by phone from Chilliwack.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer put forward the motion recognizing that the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh were “never ceded through treaty, war, or surrender”. It calls for city staff to work with First Nations representatives to develop “appropriate protocols” for city business that respect their traditions. Council is expected to vote on the motion at its meeting on Wednesday (June 25).

      Reimer told the Straight the city heard much about the harms of colonization during the Year of Reconciliation, which ended on June 20.

      “This seemed the logical next step to take,” Reimer said by phone.

      The Sto:lo Nation's traditional territory extends from Vancouver to Yale.
      B.C. Treaty Commission

      While the Sto:lo people assert aboriginal rights and title to the area extending from Vancouver to Yale, Schaepe noted they recognize that the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh hold the “primary relationships” in Vancouver. He called Reimer’s motion a “very positive” development, especially since First Nations are “struggling” to achieve “high level” recognition from the Canadian and B.C. governments.

      Schaepe said he’d like to see the governments of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, and Mission formally acknowledge they sit on Sto:lo territory.

      “There’s a limited recognition to—in some cases—almost no recognition of the relationship with the aboriginal peoples within those municipal boundaries,” Schaepe said, “and it’s not fair and it’s not healthy.”

      Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman and Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz were unavailable for comment.

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      Jun 25, 2014 at 8:34am

      This is a slippery slope. Next thing you know, they will want compensation or for the province to hand over chunks of land. It happened before, and the costs to the province and us (the taxpayers) have been enormous.

      Alex T

      Jun 25, 2014 at 10:00am

      Wait wut, the costs to "us" (read: non-natives)? Seems a bit like being concerned about how a thief would feel if he had to return his stolen goods without wondering about the people he stole it from.

      I don't expect that the natives will (or can) ever be properly compensated. But recognition sounds like it is literally the least we can do.


      Jun 25, 2014 at 10:41am

      We should ask all thieves to do that. When you see the guy who stole your car down the road, he can shout out the window "Hey Buddy! I recognize that I am driving your unceded convertible Mercedes! Thanks!!"


      Jun 25, 2014 at 11:12am

      Some else's ancestors did stole from their ancestors. The rest of us didn't "steal" a thing, we just live here like everybody else.

      Alan Layton

      Jun 25, 2014 at 12:26pm

      I have no idea what the implications are of this. If it was done to make the First Nations involved feel good about themselves, then great, because they need something. I guess we'll find out if there are negative ramifications from it in the future.


      Jun 25, 2014 at 12:39pm

      Hey Mark, what do you think it cost the indigenous people when it was taken from them by force?

      Sandy MacDonald

      Jun 25, 2014 at 1:00pm

      The assertion that Vancouver stands on unceded land is a fact.

      And it's a fact that the Royal Proclamation of 1762 - a constitutional document for Canada - specifically proscribes occupying land which has not been ceded under Treaty.

      The "slippery slope" is the one where you choose to ignore a historic wrong because it is inconvenient for you. As a seventh generation Canadian, I'm tired of listening to those who presume to speak for me when choosing to ignore the Constitution and laws of the country - as well as the Supreme Court of Canada. If Canada wishes to be a country which believes in the Rule of Law, it's time our politicians step up to the plate and respect those laws and rights. Our constitutional law has evolved along with international law; but has always been clear on the Title held by the First Nations in Canada; and has always been clear about the way that the Government of Canada needs to proceed. The fact that our politicians have chosen not to do so is simply shameful.

      Alan Layton

      Jun 25, 2014 at 1:20pm

      Sandy MacDonald - why are you blaming politicians? I don't remember First Nation's issues being very high up on the list of concerns during any election I've witnessed - so why do you expect politicians to take the lead?

      If you aren't First Nations and you're living in this country, then you're just as much to blame. Nobody is blameless in this situation.


      Jun 25, 2014 at 2:43pm

      So what does the law say we need to do now?

      Per your statement, "Our constitutional law has evolved along with international law; but has always been clear on the Title held by the First Nations in Canada; and has always been clear about the way that the Government of Canada needs to proceed."


      Jun 25, 2014 at 9:32pm

      The White Man stole their land fair and square.