By Managing Editor Molly Barrieau
November saw a record-breaking deal in the fight for land reserves for Canadian First Nations. 79 acres of Downtown Nanaimo was reserved for the Snuneymuxw in 1860, yet the government never delivered on their agreement to give this land to them. A recent vote of 98.1 percent led to the settlement, which will be placed into a trust for future generations.
The Snuneymuxw—pronounced snu nay moo—is one of the largest nations in BC with over 1,700 people. VIU sits on Snuneymuxw land, and recognizes the territory in everyday student life representing the local language in one of three totem poles erected on campus by Sh’qapthut The Gathering Place.
The process to garner this deal has taken over 20 years, the lack of land given to the Snuneymuxw meant that in recent years, only one-third of the band’s members live on-reserve, located south Nanaimo along the coast.
According to The Georgia Straight, the land commissioner at the time of the original treaty, Joseph Trutch, was the reason the land never ended up in Snuneymuxw First Nation’s hands in the late nineteenth century. He was known to be a negative component in the process of land reservations, feeling that, even though First Nation’s people were a majority in BC at the time, the land chosen for them was too large.
Yet, the land they currently live on is the smallest area per capita for First Nation’s in the country. Along with the cash settlement, there is an agreement to find 79 acres of replacement land for the band to live as a community.
Molly is a creative writing major with a modern languages minor, has a love for editing, publishing and linguistics. She is in her fifth and final year at VIU. She hopes to land a job in Montreal and open a poutine truck with her partner when she retires.