This week, we celebrate the anniversaries for modern treaties completed in the BC treaty negotiations process.* These are:
Tsawwassen First Nation (effective April 3, 2009)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations (effective April 1, 2011)
Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations (effective April 1, 2011)
Toquaht Nation (effective April 1, 2011)
Uchucklesaht Tribe Government (effective April 1, 2011)
Yuułu?ił?ath Government (effective April 1, 2011)
Tla’amin Nation (effective April 5, 2016)
In the years since the Treaties came into effect, these Nations continue to affirm their right to self-determination and self-government, undergo significant economic transformation, develop and implement legislation specific to their governance structure, and engage in a renewed government-to-government relationship with their treaty partners — the Governments of BC and Canada. The Modern Treaty Nations and their partners, Canada and British Columbia, are also transforming local economies and communities as the treaties are being implemented.
* The Nisga’a Final Agreement was negotiated prior to the establishment of the BC Treaty Commission. It took effect on May 11, 2000.
“For the Tsawwassen people, this is a time of great hope and optimism — a challenging, yet exciting time. It is a time for revival and renewal. It is a time when we will take back our rightful place as a community, equal to others, through our treaty.”
Chief Kim Baird in an address to the BC Legislature (2007) in advance of a debate on the Tsawwassen First Nation Treaty.
On April 3, 2009, Tsawwassen First Nation made history by implementing the first ever urban Modern Treaty, and the first through the made-in-BC treaty process. It followed decades of negotiations, and in the words of Chief Kim Baird the Tsawwassen people “[would] no longer be tethered to the archaic Indian Act”. So what has this process of treaty implementation — and the dissolution of the Indian Act — looked like for Tsawwassen First Nation?
A significant part of the treaty journey is the creation of Tsawwassen-specific laws, approved and passed through the Tsawwassen Legislature. Historically, it was the Indian Act – and bureaucrats in Ottawa – that determined governance structures for Tsawwassen, and the application of bylaws (rather than real laws) on Tsawwassen lands. Additionally, economic and critical infrastructure development — and its associated revenue — has been a core part of Tsawwassen’s treaty implementation journey. In 2019, Tsawwassen reported nearly $30 million in revenue from annual property taxes, $485 million in annual employment income, and $1 million in training and education funds.
This revenue is continuously reinvested into the community, supporting key pillars such as community-building, entrepreneurial capacity, health and wellness, and spiritual and cultural wellbeing. One example is the new q̀əʔis məstiməxʷəwtxʷ youth centre, which opened in 2021. The youth centre has been a years-long process for Tsawwassen First Nation. In 2017, the Nation committed to creating a space for youth to feel “at home and excel in their endeavours.” Tsawwassen worked closely with youth throughout this process, to ensure that their needs were reflected in the creation of the space.
In the thirteen years since effective date, Tsawwassen First Nation has continued to place its people and culture at the centre of its implementation plans, and work with their treaty partners to ensure the continuation of, and advance, their renewed relationship.
“Today, we are a modern and progressive Treaty Nation. The Treaty we signed in 2009 with the federal and provincial governments has given us the powers, clarity and legal certainty to develop our ambitious plans for the future.
Those plans were envisioned not just for the prosperity of the Tsawwassen people, but for the benefit of all who come here. We invite you to read this website to learn more about what you can expect here on Tsawwassen Lands.”
A Message From Chief swənnəset, Chief Ken Baird
“The Maa-nulth treaty is an expression of our vision of the future. It (…) permits us to see a future filled with opportunities. It is a vision that removes the crippling institutions of our colonial era, and it is a vision that confidently embraces a new relationship with Canada and British Columbia.”
Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes, Uchucklesaht Tribe Government
“With the Maa-nulth final agreement, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings. In conjunction with other pioneering treaty nations, we are rewriting the history of treaty negotiations in British Columbia and in Canada.”
Chief Councillor Violet Mundy, Ucluelet First Nation (Yuułu?ił?ath Government)
“As of this point in time, we also have an opportunity to readjust and reshape our social relations. Until now, racism has played a very damaging role in the way our people have experienced education, labour and indeed citizenship in this province. After today we must build together as sisters and brothers.”
Chief Councillor Therese Smith, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ First Nations
“We entered this modern-day treaty with a goal in mind. The goal in mind was that we wanted to make lives better for our people. We wanted to see more of our children educated. We wanted to see more of our people earning a meaningful income within their homeland. Today we hope those things can become a reality.”
Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr., Huu-ay-aht First Nations
“I will never forget what my father taught me, and that was the trail to the treaty. That was his aim, along with the people from all over B.C. I cannot mention every one of them that were the leaders on the trail of the treaty in 1930.”
Hereditary Chief Bert Mack of the Toquaht First Nation
The five chiefs quoted above addressed the BC Legislature in November 2007, prior to the introduction of the Maa-Nulth Final Agreement Act.
On April 1, 2011, the Maa-nulth Treaty came into effect and was celebrated with the burning of the Indian Act by citizens, symbolizing and marking the end of colonialism and the beginning of new era.
The Maa-nulth Treaty is being implemented by the five distinct Maa-nulth First Nations: Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations, Toquaht Nation, Uchucklesaht Tribe Government, and Yuułu?ił?ath Government, as independent Indigenous governments. Though their individual approaches differ, the Maa-nulth First Nations have each utilized the treaty as a pathway to: establishing strong economic portfolios; protect and implement their rights, territories, and respective governance structures; revitalize language and culture; and ensure intergenerational wellbeing, as well as many other values and priorities.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ economic development has consistently been shaped by three sacred principles: Iisaak, Hishuk Tsa’wak, and Uu-a-Thuk. Their portfolio consists of 13 businesses throughout the Nation’s traditional territory, ranging from tourism and hospitality to sustainable natural resource development. The protection of Huu-ay-aht language and culture is an ongoing process for the Nation, and begins with young people. Plans are in development for the Oomiiqsu (“Aboriginal Mother Centre”), which is focused on keeping families together and creating supportive models of care. Yuułu?ił?ath has also committed to supportive models of community wellbeing, and since effective date, assumed responsibility for all child protective services.
Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nations’ economic portfolio has also expanded to include tourism and recreation, similar to Toquaht and Uchucklesaht. Natural resources, and the control over these natural resources, have also played a key role in the expansion of the Nations’ economic portfolios.
The Maa-nulth Nations, along with their partners (the Governments of BC and Canada), have spent 11 years committed to implementing their treaties. Each of these five Nations has approached implementation with the idea of a better, more equitable future for their citizens.
“Treaties are a foundation for new and ongoing government-to-government relationships between First Nations, B.C. and Canada, which support working in partnership towards common goals. I am honoured to work alongside Maa-nulth First Nations leadership and look forward to progressing on treaty implementation together.”
Honourable Murray Rankin, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
“Our treaty will provide us with the necessary tools to break free from the shackles of the Indian Act and allow our people to prosper. We will no longer be oppressed by this dreaded act that has allowed for many awful things to happen to many of our people.”
Hegus Clint Williams, addressing the BC Legislature in February 2013.
On April 5, 2016, Tla’amin became the most recent Modern Treaty Nation in British Columbia. Then Hegus (Tla’amin for “Chief”) Williams’ words, this was the beginning of ‘breaking free from the shackles of the Indian Act.’ This process has included economic development, the continued revitalization of language and culture across generations, and an emphasis on community wellbeing through strategic policy initiatives and Tla’amin legislation.
The development of critical infrastructure has been a core part of the Nation’s economic and wellbeing strategy. This has included the construction of housing in high need areas, the design and future build of youth and Elder’s centres, and establishing the foundation for an ongoing relationship with the City of Powell River.
Tla’amin’s treaty journey is the most recent, and in the six years since effective date, the Nation has continued to put the wellbeing of its citizens at the core of its work. Prosperity is not exclusively an economic question — it is a question which brings together the economic, cultural, social and spiritual well-being of the Tla’amin people.
“On this day in 2016, Tla’amin Nation signed a treaty with British Columbia and Canada, which forged a shared path to advance reconciliation, self-governance, and self-determination.”
Honourable Murray Rankin, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
As we draw Treaty Anniversary Week to a close, the BC Treaty Commission celebrates the Modern Treaty Nations, the Government of BC, and the Government of Canada on these momentous achievements.
The path to getting here has not been simple, and we recognize the tireless work and dedication of those involved in building these treaties, the ones who came before them, the ones who are no longer with us, and we raise our hands in respect to those that continue the journey of implementation and building the new relationship. We honour their efforts by continuing the good work as treaty partners.
Modern treaties establish a new Nation-to-Nation, government-to-government relationship based on respect, cooperation, and reconciliation. Treaties honour the right to self-determination and self-government and constitutionally protect Indigenous rights and title. They also constitutionally entrench the sharing of sovereignty. No other agreements achieve that.
In the years since effective date, we have witnessed incredible prosperity for all: First Nations, British Columbians, and Canadians. Congratulations on the anniversaries of the Tsawwassen, Maa-nulth, and Tla’amin treaties!