‘We were born knowing this is ours’: B.C. signs deal recognizing Haida Nation title over Haida Gwaii

The B.C. government and the Council of the Haida Nation have signed an agreement officially recognizing Haida Gwaii’s Aboriginal title, more than two decades after the nation launched a legal action seeking formal recognition.

The province announced last month that it had reached a proposed deal with the Haida, which Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin called a “foundational step in the reconciliation pathway of Haida Nation and B.C.”

On April 6, the nation announced that more than 500 Haida citizens had voted 95 per cent in favour of approving the Gaayhllxid/Gíhlagalgang “Rising Tide” Haida Title Lands Agreement.

“This does not mean that the government is granting us anything. We have always held our inherent rights and title to our lands,” Tamara Davidson, a Vancouver regional representative for the Council of the Haida Nation, told CBC News on Sunday.

“We were born knowing this is ours.”

The deal recognizes the First Nation’s title throughout Haida Gwaii, which is made up of more than 150 islands about 90 kilometres west of British Columbia’s north coast.

However, it does not impact private property or government jurisdictions, and Rankin has said that litigation would have created “uncertainty for residents and businesses.”

The province says the “Rising Tide” title agreement is a “first-of-its-kind” deal negotiated between the NDP government and the nation, shifting “ownership and jurisdiction of land from the Crown to the Haida Nation in Crown law.”

A man in a read sweatshirt speaks to a person holing out a microphone.
Haida Nation president Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop) says the agreement is a step away from the ‘harmful’ and damaging impacts of colonization on the land and people of Haida Gwaii. (Carolina de Rky/CBC)

Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), president of the Council of the Haida Nation, said the agreement represents a step away from the harmful impacts of colonization on the land and people of Haida Gwaii.

“In our long and ancient history here on Haida Gwaii, this chapter with British Columbia has been a dark chapter in many ways,” Gaagwiis said in an interview with CBC News on Sunday.

However, he said, “it’s a very short part of our ancient history here, and today we are creating a new story in our history here.”

A statement released Sunday by Rankin’s ministry says it has not yet been determined how the title will be implemented in a “planned and orderly way.”

At a signing ceremony on Haida Gwaii on Sunday, B.C. Premier David Eby said the title of the Haida people over the territory was never in question and that recognizing it was “so long overdue.”

Eby said the agreement will “raise all boats” in the community, and he hopes it will serve as an example for other nations across B.C. and the rest of Canada.


Posted in CBC