"The Land on which we used to get our living it is gone, where we used to go hunting it is gone, where we used to pick berries it is gone, and why - because the government just simply took it away without saying a word. If the white men would fight us like they are doing in Germany today, it would be all right, but they don't - the Government stepped in and without paying us a cent took all our land away and we now see that we have been badly treated. The Indian people, we believe what the Government said when the Government men says "this is your reserve, and no one else" but when we start to make a little money, perhaps selling timber or fish, why at once the same Government come upon us and put us in jail and we have to sit down and cry because we can not dispose of anything on these reserves without being put in jail."
~ Chief Samuel Wise of the Kitselas Tribe, Saturday September 5th, 1915 (Statements to the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission on establishment of Indian Reserve Lands)
For more than 150 years First Nations in British Columbia have consistently sought recognition of their aboriginal rights and title - through petition, protest, litigation and negotiation. British Columbians overwhelmingly agree that the matters in dispute can only be resolved through negotiations, not by confrontation and not by going to court.
The treaty process was set up as a voluntary process based on political negotiations, not legal interpretations. In treaty negotiations, a First Nation does not have to prove aboriginal title. To be accepted into the treaty process, a First Nation must be an aboriginal governing body, however organized and established by aboriginal people within their traditional territory in British Columbia, which has been mandated by its constituents to enter into treaty negotiations on their behalf with the governments of Canada and British Columbia.
The treaty process refers to the British Columbia Treaty Commission which is an independent body responsible for facilitating treaty negotiations in British Columbia. The Treaty Commission developed from an agreement in 1990 with First Nations and the Federal and Provincial governments to form a Task Force to recommend how treaty negotiations should be undertaken. In 1991, this British Columbia Task Force recommended a six stage treaty negotiation process and the formation of the British Columbia Treaty Commission to facilitate negotiations. The Treaty Commission was appointed in 1993.
The Tsimshian Nation has been involved in the treaty process since December, 1993. That year the Tsimshian Nation submitted a statement of intent to the Treaty Commission to negotiate a treaty with Canada and British Columbia. The Tsimshian Nation's statement of intent was accepted by the Treaty Commission in February of 1994.
Each of the seven communities of the Tsimshian Nation has a representative at the treaty table. The Gitselasu have appointed a Community Negotiator for the Kitselas Treaty. The Kitselas Treaty Office has a policy of greater involvement. They are requesting that more band members involve themselves in the treaty issues and in the negotiation process. The Kitselas Treaty Office believes that more involvement means better first nations governance in the future. The Kitselas Treaty Office also believes that the treaty process can help create future career opportunities for the youth of the community.
The ability to govern is in the heart of any nation. All it takes is one successfully negotiated treaty, with all the "bricks" in place - to set into reality the countless hours of meetings, the frustrations, the set-backs, and the challenges of treaty negotiations. To replace the previous method of governance structures within our communities under the Indian Act, is an enormous undertaking. We are limited by the Indian Act to exercise governance but we are evolving, and adapting, and the process is slow. We will continue to grow and change to meet these challenges. We must persevere in process of rebuilding our Nation - our future is with our children.