The federal government has accepted a New Brunswick First Nation's claim to more than 4,000 hectares of land in the western part of the province.
Officials from the Tobique First Nation, along with federal negotiators, made the announcement in Fredericton on Tuesday. They said the First Nation had successfully argued that about two-thirds of its land, including parts of the village of Perth-Andover, were illegally taken in 1892.
The results of any future negotiations will not impact land owners in the area — the agreement will see that the First Nation is compensated for the property it lost.
"It's a big day for Tobique because it's 100 years of unjust removal … and hopefully in the near future our people will see justice," said Gerald Bear, chief of the Tobique First Nation.
The sale of the land took place at the request of the New Brunswick government because many European settlers had moved there.
The band has been arguing for more than 45 years that the sale of its reserve land was never approved by the federal government through an order-in-council.
The band had tried to make a similar argument in the 1980s but since that time several court rulings have worked in its favour.
The federal government is now not disputing Tobique's claim to the land, which validates the claim and will send the First Nation and the government into negotiations.
"Once the federal government comes and visits and says, you know, you've been right all along, everybody was pretty uplifted," Bear said.
Beginning in October, the two sides will have three years to negotiate a compensation package for the land. If a deal has not been reached, the claim will go before a land-claim tribunal.
Appraisers will determine the value of the land and the government will negotiate financial compensation, said federal negotiator Luc Beaudry.
"The interests of third parties are taken into consideration and nobody gets expropriated as a result of the resolution of a claim," he added.
The First Nation will also have the opportunity to negotiate the purchase of replacement lands, Beaudry said.
First Nation members will vote on the options of the compensation package after it is negotiated, Bear said.