Monday, September 14, 2009

historic land taken from park and given to indigenous people

Great news from our indigenous cousins

"TOFINO, British Columbia – “It’s a ground-breaking ground breaking,” beamed Tla-o-qui-aht council member Elmer Frank as he dug a ceremonial shovel into the dirt of his First Nations’ new reservation.

“The development of Ty Histaniis is unique because it’s the first time the Government of Canada has allowed lands to come out of a park, it’s the largest single funding Indian Affairs has ever done in the Pacific Region, and it returns a part of our homeland almost 100 years after it was taken from us.”

Lands taken out of a park and given back to the indigenous people - now that's an idea!

“We are very happy to be celebrating this moment with the Government of Canada who have partnered with us on this historic project and a brighter future for our Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations,” said Chief Councillor Francis Frank. “This 86.4 hectare, $26.9 million project means the beginning of the end of housing and social problems for our nation, as we look towards a new era of hope for our children and grandchildren.”

Ty Histaniis is a Nuu-chah-nulth word meaning a place to anchor whales, and has been an important place for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations for thousands of years.

“Our ancestors lived on these lands for countless generations,” said TFN Elder Tom Curley. “In 1911 the Indian commissioner failed to include these lands as Indian reserve and Chief Joseph fought to have this area included while many families continued to live there. Then, when the Second World War broke out, the Canadian military built an airbase and a training center here, so they asked our people to move out of the way, but they said they’d give the land back after they finished with it. But after the war it became a park and the land seemed locked up forever.”

Tears welled in Curley’s eyes as he listed off dozens of names of hawiih (chiefs) and community leaders who died before seeing their dreams come to fruition. “Our focus has always been the future generations, and achieving things that will benefit them. It’s comforting to me to know I don’t have to worry anymore.”

Despite decades of difficult negotiations Tla-o-qui-aht leaders refused to give up, and in May 2000, the First Nation launched a protest as then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien arrived in the tiny town of Tofino to announce the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Negotiations began shortly thereafter.

“This had never been done before. It took an Act of Parliament to remove lands from the park,” said Nanaimo-Alberni Member of Parliament James Lunney. “The government is keen to collaborate with First Nations on projects such as this, and I look forward to walking the road with you towards a bright new future for all Tla-o-qui-aht.”

Good result. And a model to investigate.

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