Land being handed to the T’Sou-ke First Nation as part of an incremental treaty agreement between the province and Te’mexw Treaty Association means more to band members than jobs and economic development.
“We call it Sacred Mountain. It’s beautiful up there. It’s like our church,” said T’Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes.
Under an agreement announced Tuesday, the T’Sou-ke First Nation will receive 60 hectares in Broom Hill immediately and another 60 hectares when a treaty agreement in principle is signed.
The community has not yet decided what to do with the land, Planes said.
“There will be a lot of discussions,” he said.
“We always try and do things with a light footprint, making sure that the environment comes first and we are protecting Mother Earth.”
After 15 years of treaty negotiations, it is good for the community to see something positive happening, Planes said. “It shows good faith on the government’s part, and we can look forward to becoming self-sustaining,” he said.
The Scia’new First Nation in Beecher Bay will receive a 67-hectare parcel of land zoned for forestry.
“The options for that are being looked at,” said Te’mexw Treaty Association lawyer Robert Janes.
Although the parcel of land is in the overlapping claim area of the T’Sou-ke First Nation, both bands have agreed on the land transfer, he said.
However, both bands emphasized that there must be further negotiations with the Capital Regional District on First Nations rights to hunt and fish in regional parks, such as the wilderness Sea to Sea Green Blue Belt.
All Te’mexw First Nations — Songhees, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new, Malahat and Snaw-naw-as — signed the historic Douglas Treaties between 1850 and 1854.
“We still have the right to hunt and fish and farm there,” Planes said.
The Malahat Nation will receive two parcels in south Shawnigan Lake.
A 64-hectare parcel will be transferred shortly and an adjacent 120-hectare parcel will be handed over when the agreement in principle is signed.
The area is forested, but there is interest in a mixed residential and recreational development area, Janes said.
Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose) Nation will receive three- and 3.4-hectare parcels within three years.
The area is a gravel pit, so there are light industrial opportunities, said Te’mexw chairman Tom Bob, who is a memer of the Snaw-naw-as Nation.
“We will be looking at our best-use studies and create the most possible employment,” he said.
“Being such a small nation, with a small land base, our options are very limited, and now we are looking at getting ahead and being in control of our own destiny.”