Heiltsuk Nation signs declaration that sets stage for reconciliation


Heiltsuk Nation signs declaration that sets stage for reconciliation

(Bella Bella – Oct. 28. 2015) The Heiltsuk celebrated the signing of a declaration that sets out a renewed mandate and a unique approach to reconcile our relationship with Canada & BC.

Heiltsuk’s traditional territory is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s central coast.

In the 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a declaration of Aboriginal title could be obtained through a negotiated agreement, or by court declaration. Today,through the signing of the Declaration and community approval of our Title & Rights Strategy, the Heiltsuk have established our own agenda to seek reconciliation with Canada and BC.

Over the years Heiltsuk have been proactive in advancing our title and rights through the courts (R. v. Gladstone), in negotiations (Reconciliation Agreement with Province of BC) and through direct action (occupation of DFO offices in 2015 to protect herring stocks). We have a strong history of seeking legal, political and economic solutions to reconcile our relationship with Canada & BC.

The Heiltsuk have been collaborating with both governments and industry partners related to planning and economic opportunities within our territory, both as a member community of Coastal First Nations and on our own. “This work must continue. Yet for all our proactive work, we still do not have a sustainable economy on the central coast and continually find ourselves at odds with resource management decisions made by other governments,” said Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt.

The Heiltsuk believe strongly that this approach is one that could achieve a shared objective with BC & Canada towards reconciliation. “We remain committed to all existing agreements and processes, but are interested in moving forward to seek appropriate solutions that will advance our government-to-government relationships with Canada and BC,” said Chief Marilyn Slett. “It is our hope that governments will see this approach as a positive opportunity and a springboard for future negotiations,” said Slett.


For Further Information contact:
Chief Marilyn Slett . 250-957-7721
Heiltsuk Tribal Council

A. This declaration is based on Lhaxvai (our inherent jurisdiction that flows from ownership of our lands) and Gvi’ilas (our governing authority over all matters related to our lands and people).

B. Throughout our history, our ancestors, Hemas and leaders have worked to reconcile our differences with Canada and BC. Each generation preserved our history and culture, and protected our territory. We acknowledge Elders who imparted teachings, stories, songs and dances that allowed us to maintain the traditions of our government institutions and our way of life. We honour our children and future generations who will carry on this important work until reconciliation is achieved.

C. Together, we the Hemas (hereditary Chiefs) and Heiltsuk Tribal Council( elected leaders) acting in our capacity as the official governing body mandated to represent citizens of the Heiltsuk Nation, on this day, October 28, 2015 declare that:

1. We are the Heiltsuk people, descendants of ancestors who exercised sovereign authority and ownership over our land and waters for thousands of years. Today, we reaffirm the continued existence of Heiltsuk title, and our right as a Nation to exercise jurisdiction and management authority and to derive economic benefits from lands, waters and resources
within our territory.

2. The source of Heiltsuk title flows from our historic ownership, occupation, stewardship, use and control of our territory. Our title predates and survives the assertion of European sovereignty. Each generation is taught the history of our lineage and how it connects our People to ownership and responsibilities related to our territory.

3. Heiltsuk territory indudes WuyaHtx, ‘Qvuqvayaitxv, Wuilitxv, Yisdaitxv and Xixis encompassing 35,553 sq. kilometers on the central coast of British Columbia. We have never surrendered title to our homeland, eco-systems and resources, as they are essential to our way of Life.

4. We continue to exercise jurisdiction and political authority as owners of our territory and resources when engaging with other governments, industry partners, First Nations and those seeking to carry out activities on Heiltsuk lands and waters.

5. We will uphold stewardship responsibilities passed on by our Hemas and nuyem-giwa (house, crest and family systems) and allow traditional laws to evolve into our contemporary government system.

6. To advance legal recognition of our title, we have undertaken extensive strength of claim anaysis to demonstrate that our assertions are based in fact. We are prepared to launch an Aboriginal title case if this fundamental reality is not recognized or respected.

7. We remain committed to existing agreements and to establish strategic alliances and cooperative relationships with partners who share Heiltsuk interests. These interests include the principles of ecosystem-based management over our land, water and resources, and the establishment of sustainable economic development and a conservation economy within
our territory.

8. We remain committed to seek appropriate solutions to reconcile Heiltsuk title with the Crown and engage on a government-to-government basis with Canada and BC to establish a process of reconciliation through negotiation.

9. lt is our position that reconciliation requires our free, prior, and informed consent to development on Heiltsuk territories and waters as we move forward in a collaborative management regime.

10. The renewed mandate from our People is to obtain a declaration of title to our lands and waters; and for Heiltsuk to exercise maximum control over our territory.