NStQ entered the BC treaty process in 1993 and signed a framework agreement in 1997. The proposed treaty between the NStQ, British Columbia, and Canada, endorsed by our Leadership, reflects our strong relationship to the land, to our neighbours and to the rest of the Secwepemc Nation. A part of our treaty negotiations will be the formation of an NStQ government, which will implement the treaty and allow us to make decisions for ourselves.
By entering into treaty, we will be better positioned to protect, manage, develop and enjoy the lands and resources within our territory. Once we make the transition into self- government, our government will help our people develop strong, healthy, successful individuals and communities.
Our current Agreement in Principle (AIP) will not return all that was lost, but it will move us forward in a positive way. While it is impossible to get back everything, with this AIP, we will have a tool we can use to rebuild our nation. While it is not a final agreement, this AIP represents many years of negotiations on substantive components and is a stepping stone to a final treaty if our nation decides to follow that path.
One fundamental principle of our traditional law thus laid out by Sek’lep thousands of years ago is that each nation collectively holds its respective homeland and its resources at the exclusion of outsiders. Outsiders ought not trespass our lands without our express permission. However, when Sek’lep invited the foreign Wutémtkemc into our home as guests, noting “we should be friends but we should not interfere with each others’ work” he was the first to establish a relationship between us as the owners and hosts of this land, and the outsiders as guests who were invited and should be treated with kindness but were expected to show respect and reciprocity.
As settlers came into our home in the past two hundred years, they were again reminded that we were the ones who owned the collective “ranches” or homelands of our nations, and that they were guests in our land. In the 1910 Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, our Chiefs reiterated their memories of the first seme7 (guests) who respected our lands and boundaries; however, as settlers took over our land and established laws aimed at keeping us off our “ranches,” they denied not only our ownership of lands and resources, but also our ancient laws of trespass and jurisdiction. They thus defied the honour of being guests that we had bestowed upon them.
We, the Secwépemc and our neighbouring Aboriginal Nations continue to organize and pursue the recognition of title and rights from both a political and legal standpoint, creating new opportunities to put the vision stated by Chiefs in the Laurier Memorial into practice: “For the accomplishment of this end we and other Indian tribes of this country are now uniting ... in this fight for our rights.”
In 1910 the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau wrote a memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier and presented it to him in Kamloops on August 25 of that year. The memorial stated “So long as what we consider justice is withheld from us, so long will dissatisfaction and unrest exist among us, and we will continue to struggle to better ourselves. We demand that our land question be settled, and ask that treaties be made between the government and each of our tribes. We desire that every matter of importance to each tribe be a subject of treaty, so we may have a definite understanding with the government on all questions of moment between us and them.”
The NSTQ has worked tirelessly to continue the fight for our rights that started with our leadership in the 1850s. We see the treaty process as a way to a secure and self sustaining future for our children and future generations. Through the treaty, we will arrive at a place where we will make our own decisions about our lives and for the land and resources in their territory. A treaty will provide us with more land and we will have our own government with a constitution and bylaws to guide our economic, health, social, cultural and traditional activities. The Final Treaty Agreement we have negotiated will allow us to live, as independent and proud people, as our ancestors did for thousands of years before contact.