Lock, Stock and Barrel: Nisga'a Ownership Statement
In the early 1980’s, the Nisga’a Nation, through w̓ahlin Sim’oogit Hleek, the late James Gosnell, participated in the Constitutional talks hosted by the federal government. In a probing dialogue between James and then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Mr. Trudeau asked James, “What does Aboriginal Title mean?” It was then that James so powerfully asserted that the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada own the land “Lock, Stock and Barrel”.
In accordance with the wisdom and recommendation of the members of the Council of Elders, the NLG Executive unanimously agreed that we distribute the publication from our archives entitled, “Lock, Stock and Barrel: Nisga’a Ownership Statement” to members of Wilp Si’ayuukhl Nisga’a (WSN) for your edification.
To comprehend where we are today as the Nisga’a Nation and our long-standing aspirations in respect of sustainable prosperity, it is important to know where we came from. Lock, Stock and Barrel will provide you with a comprehensive insight into the position of our forefathers dating back to first contact and through the generations from the 1913 Land Committee to its re-birth through the Nisga’a Tribal Council in the 1950’s, and in our position in the Calder Case. Remarkably, our position has remained consistent through the generations.
As told in these pages, we had always sought a just and equitable resolution to the land question through negotiation of a treaty which would recognize our ownership and interests in our lands, and our right of self-government over our lands and ourselves.
On May 11, 2000, we accomplished what our ancestors fought for when the Nisga’a Final Agreement took effect. We own 2,000 sq km of Nisga’a Lands, and have constitutionally protected interests in 26,000 sq km of land in the Nass Area. Under our treaty we have clearly defined rights of law-making authority over our citizenship, our fisheries, our hunting, our forests, our language, our culture, our education, just to name a few areas of authority. This right of self-government is constitutionally protected under out Treaty as was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013.
For the future, we as decision-makers will be challenged with tough, complex choices that we must make on behalf of the Nisga’a Nation. As the late Justice Josiah Wood once reminded this House, “As trustees of the powers vested in the WSN, you must keep in the forefront of your mind at all times the interests of the Nation, and ensure that your actions and decisions are made solely in furtherance of what you reasonably believe to be the Nation’s best interests.”
We should always be mindful of where we came from and the dream of our forbearers to have our Aboriginal Title recognized so we can determine our own destiny. We are living their dream now.
I strongly hope you enjoy reading the pages of Lock, Stock and Barrel and that it ignites a further interest in our rich history.
NISGA’A LISIMS GOVERNMENT
H. Mitchell Stevens, President