Top Stories of 2011: Yale treaty sparks protest

A treaty signed in April by the Yale First Nation sparked a protest and ‘war council’ by the Sto:lo Nation and Sto:lo Tribal Council.

A treaty signed in April by the Yale First Nation and later ratified by the B.C. government sparked a protest and ‘war council’ by the Sto:lo Nation and Sto:lo Tribal Council.

The treaty is now before the federal government for final ratification.

The Sto:lo insist a treaty should not have been negotiated with the Yale First Nation – which they claim is in fact a Sto:lo band — especially one that gives the smaller community control over Fraser Canyon fishing sites claimed by the larger Sto:lo community, and access to “sacred” cultural sites.

The Yale cannot deny “reasonable access” under the treaty terms, but asking the Yale for permission to cross treaty lands is no comfort to the Sto:lo, who point to the long history of tension and mistrust between the two groups.

The Sto:lo want the Five-Mile Fishery area that includes several cemeteries and dry-rack sites taken out of the treaty and set aside in a “shared-territory” agreement with the Yale First Nation.

Yale Chief Robert Hope has promised to work out access agreements with the Sto:lo, but a “shared-territory” agreement seems out of the question.

A BC Treaty Commission spokesman said efforts will continue to bring the two sides together, and other means of resolving overlapping claims have been used in the past, including asking native elders to reach agreements using traditional laws and protocols.

But it appears the law courts may be the ultimate venue, an expensive proposition in terms of taxpayers’ dollars, which raises the question why treaty talks continued in light of the on-going Sto:lo objections.

The proposed treaty is not yet before MPs for ratification, but Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl said he supports the agreement.

If ratified by the federal government, the Yale treaty would be the third reached under the B.C. treaty process. The Yale have been in treaty talks for 18 years.

The Yale treaty provisions include a $10.7-million capital transfer, $2.2 million in development funding, and 1,966 hectares of land owned in fee simple, 217 hectares of that in former reserve lands and 1,749 hectares in Crown lands.

The agreement also includes self-government provisions and phase-out of tax exemptions.

Sixty-six Yale band members, 68 percent of the 97 members eligible to cast ballots, voted in favor of the treaty. There are about 150 members in total.

There are about 4,000 Sto:lo, but the majority belong to bands in the Sto:lo Tribal Council which is not in treaty talks. Sto:lo Nation band members remain at the treaty table.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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