Lax Kw’alaams Mayor John Helin (left) and Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton (right) sign the Stewardship Protocol Agreement during a joint meeting in Prince Rupert on July 15, 2019. (Shaun Thomas photo)

Coast Tsimshian sign historic stewardship agreement

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla plan to work as one to preserve traditional lands

Leaders of the Coast Tsimshian, which include representatives from Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla, have signed a joint agreement in what they say is an effort to preserve environmental ownership over their traditional territory.

“Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla will commit the combined expertise and resource of Lax Kw’alaams Integrated Resources and the Metlakatla Stewardship Society to defending the rich resources and pristine environment of the territory through enforcement and research activities,” a press release stated.

The agreement was signed on July 15 in Prince Rupert. It follows the reveal of a proposed sale of more than 22,000 hectares of Crown land to the Nisga’a First Nation. The land lies in the area around the Nasoga Gulf, north of Prince Rupert, and is claimed by both the Coast Tsimshian and Nisga’a Nations.

READ MORE: Lands not for sale: Coast Tsimshian blockade

The issue of who owns the land is a contentious one — just last month protesters from Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla took part in an information blockade along Highway 16. Signs read “Coast Tsimshian lands not for sale,” and a letter from Lax Kw’alaams Mayor John Helin and Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton was titled “Provincial government betrays all First Nations and its own principles by trying to unilaterally sell Nine Tribes Land to the Nisga’a Nation.”

Helin and Leighton came together again to sign the new agreement.

“Working together allows us to better protect our environment. We have always said that we need to do more to protect our lands and waters, and this is putting those words into action,” Helin said in a statement.

“This is what our members want — they want us to protect our environment and this agreement will only strengthen our ability to do that in our traditional territory,” Leighton said.

READ MORE: Coast Tsimshian release demands and shared solutions on land dispute with Nisga’a


Alex Kurial | Journalist
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