The Agreement in Principle signed by local First Nations with the provincial and federal governments “is not worth the paper it’s written on” because big issues have not been settled, Nanoose First Nation Chief David Bob told the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors Tuesday night.
Bob’s Snaw-Naw-As nation is one of five that signed the Te’mexw treaty agreement in principle. Bob told the board it’s his hope a final agreement can be worked out in the next five years, but he didn’t sound confident and he said his people are in a holding pattern in terms of economic growth while they wait for a final deal to be reached.
“We’re in a position where we really can’t do anything until we settle the treaty,” said the chief. “We are still sitting here waiting, wondering what’s going to happen.”
As he has in the past, Bob used clear language to explain his people’s views on the land that stretches from French Creek to Piper’s Lagoon in Nanaimo to Arrowsmith Mountain.
“You’re on Snaw-Naw-As land, our traditional territory and you are guests in our home,” he said. “We are taught to treat our guests with respect, not to turn them away.”
Bob’s language seems to suggest it’s conceivable that some homeowners in this region could find themselves no longer governed and taxed by the regional district, City of Parskville or Town of Qualicum Beach.
“We can be friends or we can put the gloves on,” said the chief. “We’re used to fighting for everything we get. One hundred years of waiting, being patient, shows we’re not going anywhere.”
Bob said his nation has lost many elders who wanted to be around to see a resolution to the treaty and he spoke of his motivation in the fight for a treaty settlement — his three great grandchildren.
“They are the reason I’m fighting.”
Bob said land, fishing and hunting concerns have not been discussed in detail during the development of the agreement in principle (AIP). Any land provisions in the AIP are “as far as we’re concerned, inadequate.”
The chief said the five nations that are part of this AIP still consider themselves “Douglas Treaty bands,” a reference to a deal signed between First Nations and the British governor of Vancouver Island in the mid 1800s before Confederation.
RDN board members thanked Bob for his presentation but refrained from comment or questions about specific land or other treaty issues.
The chief ended his presentation with this: “I wish I had some fun words for you, that everything was hunky-dory, but it ain’t.”
See Tuesday’s edition of The NEWS for more from the RDN’s board meeting.