Dr. Joseph Gosnell, chief negotiator of the Nisga’a treaty, visits the B.C. legislature in 2014. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media)

Dr. Joseph Gosnell, chief negotiator of the Nisga’a treaty, visits the B.C. legislature in 2014. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media)

Nisga’a celebrate 19 years of self-government in B.C. legislature

Premier John Horgan congratulates pioneers of first modern treaty

Nisga’a dancers led a procession into the B.C. legislature’s hall of honour Thursday to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the northwest B.C. Indigenous nation’s creation by the first modern-day treaty in Canada.

Premier John Horgan welcomed the delegation, along with Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, the third Nisga’a citizen to sit as an MLA. Horgan acknowledged the pioneering role of Frank Calder and Larry Guno, who both served as MLAs for the remote region as the long struggle for recognition carried on for a century.

“It was in 1887 that the ancestors of the Nisga’a who are here today left the Nass Valley and came to this building, came to this institution, and were told to go away by the premier of the day,” Horgan said.

“They had come to settle what was called at that time the land question, and for the next 100 years, the Nisga’a went to England, they went to Ottawa, they came back to Victoria, pressing their case for their territory to be re-established. Territory that they had been on for thousands of years, territory that was unquestionably theirs. And it was in the late 1990s that a treaty was signed.”

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Horgan also read remarks made by Nisga’a chief negotiator Joseph Gosnell in the legislature in 1998 when the treaty was finally ratified by B.C. and Canada.

“I’m talking about the Nisga’a treaty, a triumph, I believe, for all British Columbians and a beacon of hope for aboriginal people around the world,” Gosnell said.

“As British Columbians, as Canadians, I believe we should all be very proud. It’s a triumph because, under the treaty, the Nisga’a people will join Canada and British Columbia as free citizens, full and equal partners in the social and economic and political life of this province, and indeed this country.

“It’s a triumph because, under the treaty, we will no longer be wards of the state, no longer beggars in our own lands, and it’s a triumph because under the treaty, we will collectively own 22,000 square km of land, far exceeding the postage stamp reserve that was set aside for us by colonial governments.”


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