(Left to right) Chief Andrea Gilbert, of Soda Creek, Chief Helen Henderson, of Canim Lake, Scott Fraser, British Columbia’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Chief Ann Louie, from Williams Lake, Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Chief Patrick Harry, of Canoe and Dog Creek, signed an agreement-in-principle on Sunday, July 22. Beth Audet photo.

(Left to right) Chief Andrea Gilbert, of Soda Creek, Chief Helen Henderson, of Canim Lake, Scott Fraser, British Columbia’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Chief Ann Louie, from Williams Lake, Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Chief Patrick Harry, of Canoe and Dog Creek, signed an agreement-in-principle on Sunday, July 22. Beth Audet photo.

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Sunday morning’s signing of the agreement-in-principle between the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people and the government of B.C. was 25 years in the making.

Chiefs from the four bands of the NstQ – Canim Lake’s Tsq’escen’ First Nation, Canoe Creek and Dog Creek’s Stswecem’c-Xgat’tem First Nation, Williams Lake’s T’exelc First Nation and Soda Creek’s Xat’sūll First Nation – along with Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Scott Fraser, British Columbia’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, participated in a signing ceremony at the Eliza Archie Memorial School in Canim Lake on Sunday, July 22.

Chief Helen Henderson, of Canim Lake, called the event “a pitstop,” a chance to mark 25 years of hard work before heading into final agreement negotiations.

“It’s a mark to acknowledge all the hard work of all of our treaty staff, our community members, our former leadership, especially our former Chiefs that got us into this process and lead us through 25 years plus,” she said.

Henderson has been a part of the process for years, but has only recently stepped into leadership and said she can’t take all the credit for this milestone.

The next step, she said, will take hard negotiations.

“We’re going back to those outstanding issues and trying to come to some kind of resolution.”

Henderson said a major goal for her people is to increase and secure land base from their traditional territory.

She said her people’s land is vast and that they see land bought and used by the crown every day.

“Our people need places to live, our people need places to hunt, fish, gather and more,” she said. “As this process goes along we see more of our lands being bought up and sold. The faster we get to this point, the more land base we’re able to secure for our people.”

The ceremony began with prayer from Ella Gilbert, a Canim Lake elder. Former Chief Michael Archie danced in the flags carried by two RCMP officers and then children came out in regalia to dance along to traditional drumming.

Bennett thanked the children for their performances and said, “when children grow up proud of who they are with that secure personal cultural identity, we know that that means much better health, education and economic outcomes.”

She said it’s a good sign to see children in regalia, showing pride for their culture.

Bennett said today’s signing launches them towards a final treaty “that ensures that you have the lands, resources and authorities that support self-government, self-determination and a strong ongoing government-to-government relationship.”

She said the only way to move forward and eradicate the racism our country still faces is for all Canadians to understand and acknowledge Indigenous rights.

Fraser mirrored Bennett’s sentiments, saying he was proud to have been a part of a “once in a generation event” and to be active in the “constructive damage of the status quo.”

He aspires for the future treaty to be a “living document” allowing for circumstancial adjustments and was met with cheers when he said, “extinguishment and surrender of rights has no place in modern day treaties.”

He said reaching a final treaty will take hard work but that the optimism among all sides involved was palpable.

Chief Ann Louie, from Williams Lake, called the day “powerful” and said it’s been a long 25 years in the making.

Louie expressed two areas in the current agreements that need work – child welfare and land.

She said they will be negotiating to “protect and govern our own children, our own families and take care of our elders.”

She addressed Bennett and Fraser directly when she said she expects both the federal and provincial governments to “step up” in providing much more land.

“We’ve always said that those lands are not sufficient,” she said, adding: “We expect much more than postage stamps.”

Chief Andrea Gilbert, of Soda Creek, said she looks forward to the future where children and grandchildren will have “a better self-determination” and where the world will acknowledge her people as strong and beautiful.

Chief Patrick Harry, of Canoe and Dog Creek, called the reconciliation process “a journey, not a destination.”

Harry, who has been involved in treaty negotiations for 10 years, said he plans for his two young children “to rely on their rights and their title forever.”

He said that’s something he would never sign away.

Harry took the time to bring up former Chiefs who attended the event to thank them for their role in negotiations.

The signing ceremony concluded with a gift exchange.

Youth from the four First Nations communities presented Bennett and Fraser with art from a Canoe Creek artist.

Fraser presented the four Chiefs with reproductions of archived documents – pioneer medal applications from 1970 that were awarded to people born or living before 1897.

Bennett gifted the Chiefs with a hardcover book with art collected in Canada for the past 50 years.

Just Posted

Okanagan Mission Secondary volleyball coach Paul Thiessen cheering his team on during the high school AAA playoffs. (Contributed)
OKM volleyball coach a provincial award winner

Paul Thiessen receives BC School Sports Merit Award for 2021-22

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

A rock quarry. (Markus Distelrath/Pixabay)
Regional district declines support of proposed Joe Rich quarry

The Regional District of Central Okanagan is one of the referral agencies for the application

(Pixabay photo)
Kelowna wants you to water its trees this summer

The city is asking residents to lend a hand and water city-owned trees amid drought-like conditions

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Most Read