Minister visits Cheslatta Campout

The annual Cheslatta Campout is underway and this year the provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation was one of the visitors.

Each year the Cheslatta Carrier Nation hosts this call to the dispersed membership to come home and celebrate with family and friends back on home territory.

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This year, there was something extra to celebrate, so minister Scott Fraser came as well.

Chief Corrina Leween personally welcomed him and expressed appreciation for his part in reaching a settlement agreement earlier this year between the Cheslatta people and the provincial government.

"The agreement includes a monetary payment for Cheslatta lands lost to flooding in 1952 when the Nechako Reservoir was created to generate electricity to power the Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat," said Leween. "Cheslatta families from seven villages were forced out of their homes which were later burned to make way for the reservoir."

Cheslatta members voted unanimously in March to accept the monetary settlement which will be managed by the Cheslatta Community Trust. The financial terms of the settlement agreement will remain confidential while negotiations on a lands package continue.

The week-long campout event is based on the shores of Cheslatta Lake, as it has since 1991.

It is a part of the First Nation's territory called Scilchola (colonial name: Indian Reserve No. 7) at the headwaters of the Nechako River.

"On behalf of all Cheslatta members, I want to thank you Mr. Minister and your government for supporting the negotiations which resulted in the settlement agreement that we signed in late March," Leween told Fraser. "The negotiations were not always easy and required great dedication by negotiating team members on both sides but we reached a mutually acceptable deal for a financial settlement and we continue to work towards a settlement for lands lost to the flooding in 1952. This is an important step forward for all Cheslatta members.

"It signifies a willingness on the part of government to right past wrongs. It is a clear signal that your government is serious about adopting the principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples or UNDRIP as it is commonly called. With this settlement agreement, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation can move forward to implement our Comprehensive Community Plan and continue to build a better life for our members and our nation."

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