British Columbia

Cheslatta Carrier First Nation sign reconciliation agreement with province

A First Nation that was displaced for a smelter's dam 60 years ago has signed a reconciliation deal with the province. Last year, that dam's management was blamed for the destruction of graves and even human remains washing up on a riverbank.

Deal includes possible training, land, cash and more for First Nation displaced by dam 60 years ago

A Cheslatta Carrier First Nation member walks with a flag during flooding in 2015. That flooding saw human remains wash up along the Cheslatta River and Rio Tinto Alcan's dam was blamed for the destruction. (Cheslatta Carrier Nation/Contributed )

The Cheslatta Carrier First Nation signed a reconciliation and settlement framework with the B.C. government on Monday afternoon.

Cheslatta Carrier was removed from their traditional territory over 60 years ago to make way for the Kenney Dam, a dam that powers Rio Tinto Alcan's Kitimat smelter operations.

The flooding of their traditional territory by the dam has resulted in the destruction of sites of cultural significance, including graves.

According to the province, the agreement will serve as a framework for further negotiations on specific benefits for the First Nation.

"The recognition and willingness of the provincial government to resolve this ongoing issue between the Cheslatta t'en and B.C. gives me confidence that, as a community leader, I can move my people forward with dignity toward a long term resolution," Chief Corrina Leween was quoted as saying in a press release.

"I'm excited, emotional and pleased and I believe this agreement will be positive for the Cheslatta community, as well as, for neighbouring First Nations, our local community and the Region as a whole."

In 2015, flooding — which was blamed on dam operations — caused human remains to be pulled out of graveyards and wash up along the Cheslatta River.

The province estimates that over the past 63 years, over 60 graves of the First Nation have been destroyed by the dam.

According to the province, the deal could lead to:

  • Cultural, heritage and training initiatives for First Nation members
  • A land package that may include Crown land, resource-use tenures, land designations (such as nature preserves) and funding to purchase private land
  • "Discussion and development of collaborative management arrangements for protected areas"
  • Power for a Cheslatta industrial area and a role for Cheslatta in managing the Nechako Reservoir
  • Financial payments to the First Nation