In the House

Gitwangak Land Use Plan



Twenty years ago this month I traveled with Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, where their case on aboriginal title, the Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa action, was argued on June 16 and 17, 1997. 

There were many events during that time in Ottawa to raise awareness. One was at the Museum of Civilization, in the grand hall. At one point, I found Gitwangak Hereditary Chief Dinimget standing by himself, staring at one of the huge totems that in that hall. With a pensive look he told me the pole was from his community — he hadn't seen it since he was a child — and how he used to get in trouble for playing on it. The way Dinimget was starting reminded me of the adawx, the oral history, and despite this relegation of a symbol of authority to a museum, the Hereditary Chief still held aboriginal title. The Delgamuukw Supreme Court case was won later that year.

Just this month, I had the privilege as the newly re-elected MLA for Stikine to meet with Dinimget and other Hereditary Chiefs in Gitwangak. Again, the basis was aboriginal title. We discussed the Gitwangak land-use plan. They have put in an incredible amount of time and energy, combining traditional ecological knowledge and Western science, a landscape-level document which allows for certainty and sustainability when it comes to activities on the traditional territories, the lax'yip. 

The Gitwangak Hereditary Chiefs want to use the plan in a co-management approach with B.C. They have run into a situation where the province seems to have amnesia about the evidence presented in Delgamuukw regarding Gitxsan territorial boundaries. This is creating problems and increasing uncertainty for the Gitwangak chiefs, their neighboring First Nations and those dependent on the lax'yip for their livelihood. 

It's 20 years since Dinimget and the Hereditary Chiefs appeared at the Supreme Court, and this week marks three years since the Supreme Court's Tsilhqot'in decision. Inaction and delay perpetuates suffering and injustice. Time for a government to act honourably. It will be better for everyone living in this great province.