Citizens PlusPublisher: Nishga Tribal Council, New Aiyansh, Canada
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX877
This booklet outlines the century-long struggle by the Nishga people to retain their own 5,750 square miles of the Naas River Valley and its watershed in northwestern British Columbia.
Abstract: This booklet outlines the century-long struggle by the Nishga people to retain their own 5,750 square miles of the Naas River Valley and its watershed in northwestern British Columbia. Though unsuccessful in 1869, in 1913, and again in 1923 in obtaining provincial and federal recognition of their land claims, the Nisha Tribal Council was able in 1969 to enlist the support of Mr. Justice Thomas Berger. Defining aboriginal title as coming "from immemorial occupation of a territory and not from stature," Mr. Berger argued that no legislation had ever taken the tribe's rights away. Nor had any price been agreed upon by the tribe and the government in terms of compensation for taking the land. Although the federal government finally committed itself in 1973 to begin negotiating settlement of aboriginal rights where treaties had not been signed, it was not until 1976 that both federal an the provincial governments of British Columbia agreed to sit down and negotiate. A 21-point proposal laid before the government negotiators on April 27, 1976 enlarges the position taken in the Nishga Declaration and is the basis of negotiations. The Nishga position is clear. Rights are to be formalized, not extinguished. Their land is not for sale.
In addition, the writers explain the significance of the phrase "Citizens Plus" used in the booklet's title and contained in the Nishga Declaration. It comes from the concept that "in addition to the normal rights and duties of citizenship, Indians possess certain rights as charter members of the Canadian community. They should be regarded as Citizen Plus."