The lands that sit beyond Diversion Dam and Bear Creek are the traditional hunting grounds for the T’Sou-ke First Nation. They are an important part of the identity of and history of the T’Sou-ke people as well as the Pacheedaht. Now it appears the two bands will be able to purchase those lands which once held First Nations’ villages.
On Dec. 21, the Capital Regional District announced the acquisition of the final parcels of park land from Western Forest Products. The 57 hectares in Jordan River is valued at $4.5 million. The Jordan River Regional Park Reserve was established in 2010 when the CRD acquired approximately 180 hectares of Jordan River land from the forestry company.
Lands north of Highway 14/West Coast Rd. have been deemed surplus to regional park needs and will be offered for sale to the Pacheedaht and the T’Sou-ke First Nations. They are the lands defined as JR2 and JR3 and include the old Jordan River town site.
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director, Mike Hicks is pleased with the decision.
“I’m very pleased that this is actually going to happen,” said Hicks. “I’m hoping the government is going to get involved.”
Hicks would like to see the land protected as a regional park.
“The surplus lands will be held for sale to the Pacheedaht and T’Sou-ke First Nations until Dec. 31, 2014. If First Nations do not acquire those surplus lands the CRD will consider other options.”
The land below the highway from the Jordan River to Sandcut Beach will remain as park.
Chief Gordon Planes of the T’sou-ke First Nation said they are ‘Thunsanup’ or Northern Straits people and they have long followed the salmon route and are on the northern edge of Coast Salish territory. The land around Jordan River was inhabited by both the T’Sou-ke and the Pacheedaht bands who both fished for halibut and salmon in the waters and hunted on the lands.
“We are the Northern Straits people and our language followed the salmon route,” said Planes. “This is a significant part of our history and culture and we want to find land for people. The community will decide what to do. The hills were important for hunting and Sooke Lake was the heart of our traditional territory.”
In 2010, the CRD and Western Forest Products announced the agreement to transfer 2,350 hectares of park and watershed lands in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area for $18.8 million paid over three years. The majority of payment went through the CRD Regional Parks Land Acquisition Fund. The provincial government provided $2 million, The Land Conservancy of BC $250,000 and private donors contributed $360,500 toward the parklands’ purchase. Included in the purchase was the lands in the CRD watershed, Sea-to-Sea Regional Park reserve lands and the Jordan River lands.
NDP Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan said he has been critical of the process of land holdings and forest companies. He said they are where they should have been when Western Forest products chose to forego their perpetual agreement.
“The lands could, should have been part of the treaty process,” said Horgan.
Horgan suggested the land should be made Crown land and then part of the treaty process for the two bands. He said if it was made a park, bought by the CRD it would become private land, not owned by the public. He added that there is some dispute as to where the line is drawn in regard to the T’Soou-ke and the Pacheedaht bands but that can be negotiated.
“The solution is simple if two levels of government are prepared to sit down and make the lands part of the treaty settlement,” said Horgan.