editorial 

At the start of the year the province anticipated this would be a year in which significant headway would be made in the long-ignored matter of treaty negotiations with the native Indians of B.C. A treaty negotiation process, designed by three native leaders, two federal government appointees and two provincial appointees, was in place and more than 70 native bands had entered the process. But 1995 hasn’t gone the way the government planned. The scope of the under publicized treaty negotiations caught many non-natives by surprise. Calls to make the process more open and include local stakeholders were made. Then came the standoffs at Douglas Lake, Adams Lake and Gustafsen Lake. It became clear, once again, how factionalized the native community is. Now, with signs that an election may be imminent, the government has hardened its position on treaty negotiations ("tough but fair") and all political parties are taking advantage of the backlash in public opinion following the shootings and standoff at Gustafsen Lake. Ironically, all this comes when non-native empathy for Indians is likely higher than it has ever been. In B.C.’s 124 year history there has probably never been more will among the general public to negotiate treaties, settle land claims and attempt to make amends for past injustices than there is — or perhaps was — in the mid-90s. The whole matter hasn’t come completely unravelled, but it’s going to take some work. The treaty negotiation process is certainly not perfect, but the intention and the will is there to establish treaties and settle land claims with dignity for all, in a manner that will provide natives with a land base and the means for economic sustainability. But it should be remembered that this is being done in 1995. Suggestions that the province should be excluded from negotiations or that the Queen of England should be involved are unrealistic, to say the least. The process to reach treaty agreements is in place. It's not perfect, it's open to manipulation by provincial politicians and natives who don't like it and it will take a lot of effort to make it work, but it's there. Any bands that want to participate have the opportunity.

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