Gerard Peters wants to bring his people home.
The Chief Negotiator for the 908-member In-SHUCK-ch Nation,
which consists of three First Nations living along the Lillooet River and
Harrison Lake, has been working on a treaty with the federal and provincial
governments that he hopes will bring people back to communities populated by
less than a quarter of their native populations.
After over a decade of talks, 2009 could bring light to the end
of a long tunnel.
“I think that it's very possible that we'll have a final
agreement that the treaty negotiators can initial by June of 2009,” he said in
The In-SHUCK-ch Nation, consisting of the Douglas, Samahquam
and Skatin First Nations, entered negotiations through the B.C. Treaty
Commission in December 1993. At the time they entered in a joint effort with
the N’Quatqua band from Anderson Lake. Negotiations broke down in 1999 and both
parties withdrew from the treaty process.
However the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, this time without N’Quatqua,
re-entered the process in 2002 and has since made a lot more progress.
The Treaty Commission was established in 1992 by an agreement
between Canada, B.C and the First Nations Summit. It does not negotiate
treaties itself, but facilitates discussions between the governments of Canada,
B.C. and provincial First Nations.
The commission prescribes a six-stage process for negotiating
treaties. It begins when a First Nation files a Statement of Intent (SOI)
showing a mandate to enter the treaty process. The SOI describes the geographic
area of the First Nation’s territory and identifies overlaps with other First
From there, the Commission has to arrange an initial meeting of
the three parties within 45 days of accepting the SOI. This meeting represents
the first time that the First Nation sits down at a treaty table with
representatives from the federal and provincial governments. It helps determine
the readiness of all parties to negotiate.
Stage three of the treaty process effectively sets out the
subjects to be addressed in negotiations. For the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, those
subjects include land and resources, financial settlement and governance.
Stage four of negotiations involves working out an
agreement-in-principle (AIP), a point at which the parties examine in-depth the
issues outlined in the framework agreement.
The In-SHUCK-ch Nation wants title over approximately 14,518
hectares of land stretching from the lower Lillooet River to upper Harrison
Lake. It also wants the rights to self-govern, develop their own constitution
and create their own laws and governing structure.