Cut-off Lands Specific Claims of Seton Lake, Gitwangak, Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams

All of these final agreements were negotiated under Canada's specific claims policy. Specific claims deal with the past grievances of First Nations.

History of these Specific Claims

These claims date back almost a century when, in 1912, Canada and British Columbia entered into the McKenna-McBride Agreement. Under that Agreement, the McKenna-McBride Commission was established to recommend adjustments to the acreage of Indian lands in BC.

Contrary to the terms of reference of the Commission and to statements made directly to 22 First Nation communities in British Columbia in the 1920s, Canada enacted legislation and passed an Order in Council which legally reduced or “cut-off” the lands without the consent of the First Nation communities. The province of British Columbia followed suit with similar legislation and passed an Order in Council.

After these lands were “cut-off”, the province retained possession of some the lands and sold others. In the cases where British Columbia sold the lands, half of the sale revenue was provided to the band affected by the “cut-off”.

Lands Affected by the McKenna-McBride Agreement of 1912

Eight parcels of land, which had been allotted for the Gitwangak, Metlakatla, Lax Kw'alaams and Seton Lake Bands, were affected. These lands include:

  • A 19.59 acres (7.93 hectares) piece of land, which had been allotted for Gitwangak First Nation. The parcel of land was known as Squin Lix Stat Indian Reserve #3.

  • Three parcels of land totalling 10,512.4 acres (4,253.99 hectares) which were allotted to both Lax Kw'alaams. These lands were known as Tsimpsean, Willaclough, and Point Veitch.

  • Another parcel of land, allotted to Lax Kw'alaams First Nation. The land was known as Finlayson Island Indian Reserve #19 and totalled 1,150 acres (465 hectares) in size.

  • One parcel of land allotted for the Metlakatla First Nation, known as the Shoowahtlans Indian Reserve #4. In total, 21.18 acres (8.57 hectares) of land was sold sometime between 1882 and 1888.

  • Two small parcels allotted for the Seton Lake First Nation. These parcels were later sold to third parties.

Gitwangak Specific Claim Settlement

Under this negotiated settlement, the Government of Canada will provide $150,000 to the Gitwangak First Nation. In addition, the province of British Columbia will pay $200,000 to Canada for the use and benefit of the Gitwangak Band.

The province of British Columbia will also transfer administration and control of 18.78 acres (7.6 hectares) to Canada for the use and benefit of the Gitwangak First Nation. This land will later be set aside as reserve land for the community, once INAC's Additions to Reserve policy is completely met.

Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams Settlement

The Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams First Nations will receive a joint compensation lands package from BC. Each First Nation will also receive separate packages of cash and land.

Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams First Nations Joint Compensation Package – Under this negotiated settlement, the province of British Columbia will transfer administration and control of a total of 10,513.69 acres (4,254.49 hectares) to the First Nations as Joint Replacement Lands. In accordance with INAC's Additions to Reserve policy, this land will be set aside as reserve land for the communities under the Joint Management (ownership) Agreement once the Additions to Reserve policy is completely met.

Metlakatla First Nation Settlement – The First Nation will receive funds of $153,000 from Canada. The province of British Columbia will also transfer administration and control of 20.56 acres (8.32 hectares) to Canada for the use and benefit of the Metlakatla First Nation. This land will later be set aside as reserve land for the community if it meets INAC's Additions to Reserve policy.

Lax Kw'alaams First Nation Settlement – The First Nation will receive funds of $150,000 from Canada. The province of British Columbia will also transfer administration and control of Finlayson Island 1,150 acres (465 hectares) to Canada for the use and benefit of Lax Kw'alaams First Nation. This land will later be set aside as reserve land for the community once it has completely met INAC's Additions to Reserve policy.

Seton Lake Indian Band Settlement -- The Seton Lake Indian Band, Canada and the Province of BC announced this final agreement in March 2008. Under the agreement, the Seton Lake Indian Band received $600,000 from Canada and 31.6 acres of land from the Province which Minister Strahl recommended be added to the reserve under the department's Additions to Reserve policy. If the Band acquires other lands in the area, the Minister will, subject to the terms of the Additions to Reserve policy, recommend the addition of up to another 168 acres of rural land in the area. The Additions to Reserve policy requires consultation with local government.

Benefits of Settling Specific Claims

Settling specific claims brings long-term benefits to both First Nation members and their neighbours. Land and financial settlements enable First Nations to strengthen the social and economic well-being of their communities, encouraging investment and promoting development both on First Nation lands and in surrounding communities.

In addition, the resolution of outstanding grievances renews the relationship between First Nations and Canada in a manner that builds mutual trust and understanding. It also promotes new opportunities for strong and viable partnerships between First Nations and neighbouring communities in the future. These four settlements are the last of 22 cut off claims settled in BC.

With these agreements, Gitwangak, Metlakatla, Lax Kw'alaams and Seton Lake Bands have permanently settled a long standing issue with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. The members of these Bands will now know that their land is secured and will be there for the use of future generations.

Seton Lake Band is a St'at'imc nation located 20 km northwest of Lillooet in the southern interior of British Columbia. Gitwangak, a Gitksan nation, is located at the junction of the Yellowhead and Cassiar highways in the northern interior of BC. Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams are Tsimshian First Nations located near Prince Rupert.

November 4, 2008