We, the Indigenous leaders of British Columbia, come together united and celebrate the victory of the Tsilhqot’in and Xeni Gwet’in peoples in securing recognition of their Aboriginal title and rights – and all those Indigenous Nations and individuals that have brought important court cases over the years resulting in significant contributions in the protection and advancement of Aboriginal title and rights, including the Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’in, Haida, Taku River Tlingit, Musqueam, Heiltsuk and Sto:lo – shining light on the darkness of years of Crown denial of our title and rights. After pursuing different pathways, we now come together to make this solemn Declaration out of our common desire to be unified in affirming our Aboriginal title.
As the original Peoples to this land, we declare:
- We have Aboriginal title and rights to our lands, waters and resources and that we will exercise our collective, sovereign and inherent authorities and jurisdictions over these lands, waters and resources,
- We respect, honour and are sustained by the values, teachings and laws passed to us by our ancestors for governing ourselves, our lands, waters and resources.
- We have the right to manage and benefit from the wealth of our territories.
- We have the inalienable sovereign right of self-determination. By virtue of this right, we are free to determine our political status and free to pursue our economic, social, health and well-being, and cultural development.
- We have diverse cultures, founded on the ways of life, traditions and values of our ancestors, which include systems of governance, law and social organization.
- We have the right to compensation and redress with regard to our territories, lands and resources which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without our free, prior and informed consent.
- We will only negotiate on the basis of a full and complete recognition of the existence of our title and rights throughout our entire lands, waters, territories and resources.
- We acknowledge the interdependence we have with one another and respectfully honour our commitment with one another where we share lands, waters and resources. We commit to resolving these shared lands, waters and resources based on our historical relationship through ceremonies and reconciliation agreements.
- We endorse the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards aimed at ensuring the dignity, survival and well-being of Indigenous peoples.
We commit to:
- Stand united today and from this time forward with the Tsilhqot’in and with each other in protecting our Aboriginal title and rights.
- Recognize and respect each other’s autonomy and support each other in exercising our respective title, rights and jurisdiction in keeping with our continued interdependency.
- Work together to defend and uphold this Declaration.
We, the undersigned, represent First Nations who carry a mandate to advance Title and Rights in our homelands today referred to as British Columbia and exercise our authorities in making this Declaration. We welcome other First Nations not present today to adhere to this Declaration if they so choose.
Signed by UBCIC Chiefs on November 29, 2007