Two Sooke Region First Nations have signed an agreement-in-principle with the provincial and federal governments, moving them a step closer to establishing a formal treaty.
The agreement-in-principle outlines the elements of a treaty for the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations, including land and resource management, harvesting rights, cultural and heritage protection, and economic development.
Chief Robert Joseph of the Ditidaht First Nation said in a statement that Friday’s signing was a good step forward.
“It is good to finally reach this watershed moment in our treaty negotiations. It took us a long time to get here, but we are signing our [agreement-in-principle] today at least in part due to Ditidaht’s creative approach to resolving seemingly intractable problems,” Joseph said.
The agreement signed Friday at the Empress Hotel in Victoria begins the final stage of treaty negotiations with the communities on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.
Treaty settlements with Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations will include lands from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the West Coast Trail and Nitinaht Lake area and adjacent to the Pacheedaht community.
The treaties will also support arrangements to preserve and enhance the West Coast Trail and support co-operative management within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
A joint statement released by the bands and the federal and provincial governments said the treaty negotiations would be guided by new commitments to reconciliation.
“Our government is proud to work with the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations toward a renewed government-to-government relationship, based on rights, reconciliation and respect,” said Premier John Horgan, who is also the local MLA.
“As we recognize the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations for their work to reach today’s milestone, we remain committed to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and building a better future for everyone in B.C., today and every day.”
The traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation stretches inland from Cowichan Lake, down through Nitinaht Lake, and to the coast between Bonilla Point and Pachena Point. The territory reaches out to sea to the salmon, halibut and cod banks and includes the headwaters of streams and rivers that drain to the coastline.
The traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation includes the lands and waters along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Bonilla Point and Sheringham Point.