November 20, 1998 Features & Images » Feature Story

feature 547 

Of time and place On the other side of Garibaldi Provincial Park the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua are nearing a treaty settlement "One good and valid reason to conclude treaty is because I will never go away." – Gerard Peters By Bob Barnett "Do you know where you’re going to be in 20 years?" Gerard Peters asks, receiving only a shrug of the shoulders in reply. "I know where I’m going to be. I have to, it goes to the heart of treaty." Sitting in a Pemberton cafe on a soggy Saturday in November, 1998, 20 years seems an awful long way away. Whistler’s 2002 Vision will be ancient history. The 2010 Winter Olympics may have come and gone. Squamish could be a suburb of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley might be one continuous strip mall, home to two or three million people. The link between the eastern sprawl of the Fraser Valley and one of the fastest growing regions in the province, the Squamish-Whistler-Pemberton corridor, is In-SHUCK-ch territory. The corridor from Lillooet Lake down to Harrison Lake is the traditional land of the Douglas, Skookumchuck and Samahquam Bands. It’s where Peters lives now, and it’s where he will live 20 years from now. Time and place are elements that are woven throughout everything Peters does as chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua. Since 1993, when the In-SHUCK-ch were the first First Nation to file a statement of intent with the British Columbia Treaty Commission, they and the N’Quat’qua (Anderson Lake Band), which joined them at the table in 1994, have been among the leaders in treaty negotiations. Next week, on Nov. 24, one day after the original deadline they set for an agreement in principle, the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua will, with the governments of Canada and B.C., initial agreements on a number of "chapters" which will make up the final treaty. Among the issues the three sides have reached agreement on are government, a statement of principles on a financial agreement, police services, child protection and adoption, access, mineral resources and correctional services. There are many other chapters still to be hammered out but the progress the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua have made has caught the attention of a number of other First Nations, who will be attending next week’s ceremonies in Pemberton. In the wake of the Nisga’a agreement the media and the general public are also now paying attention to the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua. "There are advantages and disadvantages to being one of the first to negotiate a treaty," Peters says. "What if something triggers a new Delgamuukw? (Last year’s Supreme Court ruling that, among other things, stated that the province must engage in meaningful consultation with First Nations before developing or disposing of Crown land.) "But we have to consider the encroachment of things around us, too. "In the ’50s our people left the land. At 2000 the world is coming in around us. We have to be ready to meet that challenge. If we can’t, we’re going to be steamrollered." The In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua have a plan to prevent being steamrollered, to be active participants in the B.C. economy, but protection of their land base is fundamental to that plan. Land, and the natural resources that are part of it, are important to all British Columbians. Land has always been the province’s strength, its hope, and its future. The issue of land is a critical point for all sides in the negotiations. "We’ve only just started to talk (about land). I’m optimistic," Peters says. However... "There’s an element of my own council that wants to slow the process, that feels we might be better served by doing that," Peters says. "We need to bring our people up to speed and the federal and provincial government representatives may need more time to bring their colleagues up to speed on the land issue." To many outside observers, the issues of land and cash compensation are the issues in treaty negotiations, and some feel that in the Nisga’a treaty — the so-called "template" for further treaties — B.C. and Canada have been too generous. Peters has a double-edged response to people who see it that way. "I wish it were possible to start and conclude a study of the cost of the present system and compare that to the costs and benefits of us having the ability to pay our own way and foster a regional economy," Peters says. "There will be a mini-boom in In-SHUCK-ch when the treaty is done, creating roads, housing, infrastructure. That means work for area contractors, because we can’t do it all." On the other hand, Peters feels by the time the provincial government has concluded all 45-50 treaties underway it will have had to give up more than the 5 per cent of the province’s total land it has promised as a limit to treaties. "Because of Delgamuukw," Peters says. "They’re going to have to look at it, and probably have to raise the 5 per cent cap. That’s my thinking." And if that’s the case it won’t be easy for whatever provincial government is in power to sell that to the general public. The province-wide impact of treaties is not Peters’ concern — he’s dealing with his own treaty. But under a memorandum of understanding between the federal and provincial governments the province has been divvied up and a checkerboard of values assigned to lands claimed by First Nations in the treaty process. Peters says the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua lands have been appraised by government negotiators at three times the value of the Nisga’a lands and therefore, they are arguing, the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua should get only one-third of the land the Nisga’a received. "The MoU places In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua lands second only to lands in Vancouver and Victoria. They view us as an urban treaty, which we are not," Peters says. It’s difficult to relate the word "urban" with the In-SHUCK-ch village of Skateen. Located about 50 km down the Lillooet River from Mount Currie, the only power in Skateen comes from generators. A safe, reliable source of drinking water is a constant worry. The main link with the outside world is the Pemberton Douglas Forest Service Road. This forest service road, or more precisely, turning this forest service road into a highway, is one of the keys to the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua plans for paying their own way following conclusion of a treaty. A highway would provide access, communication and likely lead to electrical power. It would also provide the foundation for developing a regional economy, likely based on tourism. "We have to generate an economy that is taxable," Peters says. "You can’t tax poverty." Peters sees a highway from Harrison to Pemberton as benefiting the whole region, "Not just developers, as John Reynolds’ plan does." Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dale Lovick recently pledged money for a study of the Pemberton Douglas Forest Service Road, but the more immediate issue in negotiations is how much land surrounding the road is the province willing to turnover to the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua. It’s an issue Peters wants his people to be very certain of, which is why negotiations are taking longer than expected. Three months ago the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua revised their self-imposed deadline for an agreement in principle to May, 1999. Peters is now thinking next September might be a more realistic date. "We have to manage this, and not be managed by it," he says. In the wake of the Nisga’a agreement, and perhaps in preparation for an election, there is pressure from the provincial government to reach a quick resolution of land and cash issues with all First Nations in the treaty process. Peters doesn’t think that approach will work. "Treaty negotiation is a process," Peters says. "No one should judge the end result until we get there, including my own people. We have to wait until this has shape and form, then judge it on its merits. "No one is going to be 100 per cent satisfied." But Peters isn’t going to go away, either. As he prepares to drive off to his father’s 83rd birthday celebration Peters says: "If I don’t conclude this treaty my children or grandchildren are going to conclude it."

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