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The struggle of B.C.'s Nisga'a

It's a battle over the land and its resources. The fight has taken place on the land, in the courts and in the media. When government and native groups signed treaty agreements over a century ago, neither side imagined the repercussions. Canada's native people say treaties have been ignored and their rights — from logging trees to fishing eels — have been limited. In the 1980s, frustration grew and failed negotiations turned into roadblocks and deadly confrontation.

For 88 years, the Nisga'a people have fought a frustrating land claims battle with the government and courts of British Columbia, laying ancestral claim to millions of acres in the Nass River valley. The road is long, but the Nisga'a are up to the task; the tribe has proven its mettle in a centuries-old fight to preserve its identity and way of life as its lands and culture were stripped away. This 1978 documentary Nisga'a: A Struggle for Survival, recounts the tumultuous history of the Nisga'a, its ongoing land claim contest and a triumphant moment as it finally revives a cultural tradition unseen in over a century.
• The Nisga'a finally triumphed on May 11, 2000, when the B.C. parliament  passed the Nisga'a Final Agreement, a treaty resolving the tribe's land claims. The treaty included the handover of 2,019 square kilometres of Crown land to the Nisga'a, creation of Bear Glacier Provincial Park, establishment of a 300,000 cubic decameter water reservation and $196.1 million. • As of 2008 there are approximately 6,000 Nisga'a living in B.C., all belonging to one of the four tribes: Eagle (Laxsgiik), Killer Whale (Gisk'aast), Raven (Ganada) and Wolf (Laxgibuu).

• The expression "low man on the totem pole" - meaning someone of little importance - is actually irrelevant to native culture or totem poles. Figures on the totem are not always arranged in a specific hierarchy and the most important figure can sometimes be the lowest one.

Nisga'a: A Struggle for Survival won a Media Human Rights Award from the League of Human Rights of the B'nai B'rith.

Medium: Television
Program: Documentary: Nisga'a: A Struggle for Survival
Broadcast Date: March 23, 1978
Guest(s): Eli Gosnell, Titus Nysick
Duration: 19:26

Last updated: May 10, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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