The new Rossland Council made a difficult decision on an Indigenous request at its Nov. 7 meeting.
On behalf of the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Local Government Treaty Advisory Committee (TAC), the Regional District of East Kootenay invited the City of Rossland to appoint a council member and one alternate member to sit on the committee.
Coun. Maya Provencal questioned why the previous council voted against sending a representative, shortly after being elected?
Incumbent Coun. Stewart Spooner noted that Rossland was not within the lands on the Ktunaxa BC Treaty map, and that Ktunaxa lands lie east of the Columbia River.
“It seems we are just added as a formality,” said Spooner.
“We don’t have any direct dealings with the Ktunaxa, we are not actually in their treaty claim, but if someone has really strong interests in participating, we’re just included as an add on.”
According to the Treaty Advisory Committee’s terms of reference, all five Greater Trail municipalities fall within the historic Ktunaxa Kinbasket claim area, including Rossland, and Areas A and B of Regional District Kootenay Boundary.
“Treaty negotiations and the final treaty settlement have implications for local government,” read a quote from the former Chair of the TAC. “It takes years for settlements to be reached; however, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of maintaining our level of interest and participation throughout the process. Once a final settlement is reached, it is too late to provide input on how the changes resulting from the final agreement may affect us.”
Rossland council opens every meeting with an acknowledgement of living on Sinixt lands, so Coun. Jeff Weaver questioned the city’s participation.
“By appointing someone, would the city of Rossland thereby make a statement that we support one claim over another, is it a disputed claim between the Sinixt and the Ktunaxa?”
Provencal suggested council consult with the Sinixt and other Indigenous partners in the area before making a decision.
“The city is already making a statement through our land acknowledgement so we do acknowledge the Sinixt as the traditional stewards of the land that Rossland is on, and for this region that is a very deliberate use of language that not all other communities in the Kootenays use.”
Coun. Lisa Kwiatkowski and Coun. Eliza Boyce voiced their support of appointing a representative.
“Negotiations should be in the spirit of respect and reconciliation, and we know land claims can be complicated but I think it would show that spirit to send somebody as a delegate,” said Boyce.
Provencal put forward a motion to table the decision until council had participated in the planned Indigenous training workshop to get a better understanding of the process and the impact of their decision.
Staff noted that RDEK required a response by Dec. 23, prior to the training workshop, so the motion was withdrawn.
Provencal and Kwiatkowski put forward their names to sit on the committee.
In a 4-3 vote, council voted against appointing a representative to the Treaty Advisory Committee.
The Ktunaxa Kinbasket Treaty Council represents ?akisq’ nuk [Columbia Lake], ?aqam [St. Mary’s Indian Band], ?akinkumŧasnuqŧi?it [Tobacco Plains Band] and Yaqan nu?kiy [Lower Kootenay Band], and traditional territory including the Kootenay, Flathead, and Columbia River watersheds within the area that extends from the Arrow and Kinbasket Lakes east to the Alberta border. There is approximately 1,210 KKTC members total.
According to the BC Treaty Commission, Ktunaxa has overlapping and/or shared territory with its First Nation neighbours: Osoyoos, Okanagan, Penticton, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, Spallumcheen, Upper and Lower Similkameen, Upper Nicola and Westbank.