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Lillooet Declaration turns 100

A century after the Lillooet Declaration was signed, local First Nations groups reflect

One hundred years have passed since the Lillooet Declaration was signed by the St'at'imc people on May 10, 1911, establishing stewardship over their traditional territory and marking a protest against years of alienation from their land by white settlers.

Starting in the 1860s, the First Nations people of the area were prohibited from owning land and were moved by government onto increasingly restricted reserves to improve agricultural production, railway expansion and other public uses. The Declaration was meant to make official the rights and grievances of the First Nations groups while giving them an official voice in government.

"The 100th Anniversary of the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe is more a time for reflection, than a time of celebration," said Gerard Peters, chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation.

"My grandfather Nkasusa and his fellow chiefs were united in their resolve a hundred years ago, that matters relating to title and rights should be addressed. A century later, the In-SHUCK-ch are still seeking closure as we negotiate a treaty with the governments of Canada and British Columbia."

Stretching from Whistler past Lillooet, the region is still home to the St'at'imc people, including the Lil'wat, Xa'xtsa, N'Quatqua, Samahquam, Skatin, Sekw'elw'as, T'it'q'et, Ts'kw'aylaxw, Xaxli'p and Xwisten First Nations.

This May 10 marked another historic day for the St'at'imc people. Tribe members gathered to sign a settlement with BC Hydro over longstanding grievances associated with the construction of hydro infrastructure on the Bridge River system near Lillooet, as well as transmission infrastructure into southern communities such as Samahquam, Skatin and Xa'xtsa.

The agreement will transfer an estimated $210 million from BC Hydro and the Province of British Columbia to the St'at'imc communities to be administered in a trust fund. The amount could grow over several years if it accrues interest.

"My hope is that the recently concluded BC Hydro issues will be the vehicle for reuniting the tribe," continued Peters.

"However, for that to occur, the Indian Act delegated chiefs and councils must be either mandated by the tribe, to act on their behalf or replaced by a governance system that owes its first allegiance to the citizens of the tribe, and not to the minister of Indian affairs. At this historic time, I think we should talk about how to come together again."

A five-day celebration of the Lillooet Declaration kicked off May 10.

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With files from Jesse Ferreras