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It’s unlikely one British Columbian in 100 could today recite anything meaningful about the status of treaty negotiations, the process having become so muddied in recent months with federal and provincial governments and some First Nations wanting to alter the process. For many non-natives, treaty negotiations are boring, drawn-out affairs that will only deserve their attention the day when it finally comes down to drawing lines on a map and the bottom line is revealed: what each settlement is going to cost non-natives in terms of land and rights. This attitude is irresponsible. Treaty settlements are extremely important to the province’s future. Treaty agreements will, finally, provide British Columbians with certainty on land and resource issues, opening the possibility again to new investment in the province. It’s not as if treaty settlements are an option; the list of projects and initiatives that have been held up or put on hold because there is no certainty ranges from mines to housing to ski resorts to hospitals. Treaty agreements should also lead native communities to self sustainability. There is disagreement about whether the current process is best. Many First Nations have decided not to participate in the current process, believing something better will come along. Last December’s Delgamuukw ruling by the Supreme Court also added to the confusion. Despite the current muddle, the evolving rules of the treaty process and the fears and prejudices of people on both sides, there is hope. Just up the road from Whistler, the In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua are likely the closest of any First Nation in B.C. to reaching an agreement in principle with the governments of Canada and British Columbia. By the time the federal and provincial governments decide on a method of fast-tracking negotiations, the In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua are expected to be winding up negotiations and signing an agreement in principle. The In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua have some advantages in their negotiations. They are a small First Nation and their traditional territory is largely uninhabited and out of sight. They have also been steadfast in their determination to negotiate a treaty. They were the first into the treaty process when it began in 1993. It was the In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua who proposed a framework for negotiations that has kept the talks on track and allowed them to proceed so quickly. They have remained focused on the treaty process not because it is an end in itself, but because they want the tools to build their own future. The In-SHUCK-ch and N’Quat’qua have made sure all their negotiation sessions have been open to the public. They have reached out to local media to let people know what’s going on. They have been praised by federal and provincial negotiators for their efforts to involve third parties in discussions. And when they reach an agreement in principle next spring it’s going to be a surprise to most of us. Probably at that point the non-native population will take an interest.

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