Nisga'a members sign historic treaty

"The Nisga'a canoe returns to the Nass River, with a cargo of hope and reconciliation." That was the world from a Nisga'a chief as an historic treaty was signed Tuesday in British Columbia.

Chief Joseph Gosnell said the treaty was a triumph for both the Nisga'a people and all the people of Canada.

"This treaty proves beyond all doubt that negotiations -- not lawsuits, not road blockades, not violence -- is the most effective, the most honorable way to resolve aboriginal issues," Gosnell said.

B.C. Premier Glen Glark and federal Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart were on hand for the ceremony.

Clark said it will be important for all parties to make sure this agreement works. Many participants in the negotiations believe this could serve as a model for other treaties with aboriginal groups.

The Nisga'a people of British Columbia have been fighting for more than 100 years for control of the Nass Valley.

The deal gives the Nisga'a 1,930 square kilometres of land in the lower Nass Valley, self-government powers akin to municipal governments and $190 million in cash.

In return, the Nisga'a give up the right to future land claims and native tax-exempt status.

Though the treaty has been signed, it isn't all clear sailing for the Nisga'a canoe. Observers say the treaty could become the hot political issue in B.C. for several years.

Some Nisga'a call the treaty a sellout and say they will not agree to ratify it. Many non-natives believe the agreement is of such importance that it should be tested in a province-wide referendum.

B.C. opposition leader Gordon Campbell says the right of self-government is troubling. Campbell says he'll go to court to prove that the Nisga'a treaty creates new rights that are not covered by the Constitution.