The In-SHUCK-ch Nation is ready to "catch up" on treaty negotiatons, its three chiefs said in a letter to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
In a message dated Feb. 6, the chiefs of the Douglas, Skatin and Samahquam bands, which collectively comprise the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, are asking Minister Chuck Strahl to "catch up" with them on negotiations towards a final treaty, which they hope to complete this year.
The letter states that at formal treaty negotiations on Feb. 5, negotiators for both the In-SHUCK-ch and the province agreed in principle that they'd recommend a bilateral agreement to their respective parties, saying that all "substantive issues" involving both parties were completed.
Gerard Peters, chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch, said in an interview that most issues with British Columbia have been worked out, but there's still some issues to address with the federal government - specifically fisheries.
"We've got the makings of a treaty but you know, the treaty is going to be representative of three parties including Canada," he said. "It's really all about Canada now picking up the ball."
When the chiefs write "catch up," they actually mean that they want to bring their people back to their traditional territories.
Current estimates for on-reserve population for the In-SHUCK-ch range in the 20 per cent area - well below the provincial average of 42 per cent, according to the chiefs' letter.
Peters initially wanted to raise on-reserve population to 56.75 per cent, but has since revised expectations to the provincial average.
"We cannot afford to conclude treaty until we have Canada's commitment to catch up," the letter states. "We wish to embark on the planning, engineering and construction programs necessary to achieve a return home."
A "catch up" with the federal government also means talking about new housing and infrastructure to raise the on-reserve population. As it stands, many within the In-SHUCK-ch communities live in decrepit, overpopulated housing in areas that don't even have paved roads.
Communities such as Skatin are likewise not hooked up to B.C.'s power grid, and that has necessitated using "unreliable and dirty" diesel generators simply to produce electricity.
Access to the territory isn't easy either. The only way to get to Skatin is through an approximately 50-km forest service road east of Pemberton.
The chiefs want to create a new governance model in In-SHUCK-ch territory that will include a centralized government for all three bands and local governments for each.
The "outmigration," the letter reads, began about 60 years ago after In-SHUCK-ch children were taken to residential schools and as pressure built on community members to join the "wage economy."
"Applying federal policy, your department neglected us," the letter reads. "That same policy limits our aspirations of returning and sustaining ourselves, once again, from the wealth of the lands."
The In-SHUCK-ch Nation currently sits at the fifth stage of negotiations - finalizing a treaty. As part of a final agreement it wants title over approximately 14,518 hectares of land between the lower Lillooet River and upper Harrison Lake.
The money needed to improve the nation's infrastructure could reach $96 million, Peters said in a previous Pique story. He could not be contacted by press time.