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Snuneymuxw Offer
Spring 1998
Fall 1998

Petroglyph Park Offered to Nanaimo

The recent joint Federal-Provincial offer to the Nanaimo First Nation (Snuneymuxw) in the Treaty negotiations as released to the media January 14, 2000, must leave many Canadians disappointed and questioning the federal-provincial negotiating mandates and strategies.

One example may be sufficient to indicate the degree of federal-provincial insensitivity in making realistic offers and showing appropriate respect when dealing with lands sacred to the Snuneymuxw First Nation. The federal provincial negotiators "offered" the Provincial Petroglyph Park at Nanaimo as part of a total package of land and other items. The Park offer was dependent upon the Park being managed by the Nanaimo First Nation at standards consistent with the Provincial Park Act. Indeed, the offer contemplates that land in question would have to be registered under the Provincial Land Act and held in fee simple by the Nanaimo people, a form of land holding quite foreign to their traditional ways of holding and managing land interest.

There are many unsettling assumptions in this particular offer. Why does the offer require the Nanaimo people to maintain their sacred site as a "public park" to be operated according to provincial park standards? Is not such an offer insulting to the notion of showing respect for other peoples sacred places? Is it not doubly insulting because the "park" is part of the traditional territories of the Nanaimo people and belongs to them, legally, by virtue of aboriginal title as set out by their Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw case? What effects do the provincial-federal governments hope to achieve by making offers that are so patently disrespectful of fundamental rights and of religious and sacred aspects of the lands in question? Why did the offer not simply acknowledge aboriginal title to the lands in question and acknowledge that the Nanaimo could administer them according to their laws and customs as an aspect of self government?

What is to be gained by asserting an offer reflecting colonialist assumptions that the lands belonging to First nations be recognized as "treaty" lands to be kept under a provincial thumb? Is it not possible for an offer to contemplate shared jurisdiction with both Crown and Aboriginal title running side by side?

Would it not have been more reasonable of the Federal-Provincial governments to offer a return of all petroglyph sites within traditional territories, given the sacred nature of the sites?