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Deal gives First Nation its first land base on Vancouver Island

“This is a historic day for our community…”

Ownership of the Cowichan River valley is returning to two Quw’utsun Nation communities thanks to a key reconciliation milestone between the Lyackson First Nation, Cowichan Tribes and the province celebrated on Saturday, May 11.

The return of culturally significant land will give the Lyackson nation a land base linked to the services and infrastructure they’ve long lacked. Lyackson’s reserve lands are currently located on Valdes Island, an island with no ferry service, water supply, electricity, and other community necessities. Prior to colonization, however, Lyackson had a winter village at the mouth of the Cowichan River, and for generations, their members have been advocating for a community base on Vancouver Island.

The agreement will see a 312-hectare parcel of former Mosiac Forest Management land valued at approximately $8.55 million shared by the Lyackson and Cowichan Nations until they divide it into two. In addition to returning culturally significant land to Cowichan Tribes, it adresses the Lyackson Nation’s long-standing need for a place to live, gather, access services and lay community members to rest.

On Saturday, Lyackson Chief Pahalicktun (Richard Thomas), Cowichan Chief Sulsulxumaat (Cindy Daniels), Premier David Eby, and Murray Rankin, the minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, were joined by community members near Skutz Falls for a ceremony to sign the Incremental Treaty Agreement.

“This day would not be possible without the support of our relatives at Cowichan Tribes,” said Pahalicktun. “This collaboration is a living expression of our Snuw’uy’ulth. I want to acknowledge Minister Rankin and Premier Eby for honouring their commitment to the Leeyq’sun Mustimuhw with the signing of this agreement. This is a historic day for our community — one we’ve been advocating for and working toward for multiple generations. It is the first step in bringing the Leeyq’sun Mustimuhw back together in a village, which will strengthen our community, our culture and our economy for today and for future generations.”

The lands are near an existing Cowichan Tribes reserve known as Skutz Falls IR8, a small area of land adjacent to the Skutz Falls Provincial Park that is used for fishing and other harvesting and gathering purposes.

For Cowichan Tribes, the upper regions of the Cowichan River and Lake Cowichan are of significant importance. This reserve creation for Lyackson Nation has long been supported by Cowichan Tribes, guided by the shared teachings of nuts’a’maat shqwaluwun (working together with one mind, one heart, one spirit) and ts’ets’uw-wutul (helping one another).

“With the signing of this Interim Treaty Agreement, these unceded lands, which feature prominently in our oral history and hold great meaning for our families, are being returned to Quw’utsun,” said Daniels. “I recognize the Province of B.C. for working with us to make this possible. Cowichan Tribes is pleased to support our Lyackson relatives in accordance with our Sunw’uy’ulh (teachings) and divide these lands in a good and equitable way. Together, we are advancing a collaborative approach to addressing the urgent need for land for our citizens.”

Eby noted everyone, and every community, needs a place to call home and credits the Lyackson chief for working to push the issue to the forefront on behalf of his community.

“This historic agreement creates a long-awaited home base for the Lyackson First Nation, while also supporting the Cowichan Tribes’ housing and community development priorities,” he said. “None of this would be possible without the leadership of Lyackson chief Pahalicktun, who has worked tirelessly for the past three decades to secure a strong future for his community, leaving a legacy for generations to come.”

Both the Lyackson and Cowichan First Nations are part of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, which has been negotiating a treaty with B.C. and Canada since 1996 and is in stage 5 (final) negotiations.

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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