Celebrating Modern Day Treaties – Maa-nulth Success Rooted in Storied Past
Today, the Maa- nulth stand together proudly and take their rightful place in the society, culture and economic fabric of the province of British Columbia and Canada.
With those words, Huu- ay- aht First Nation member Tom Happynook, signalled the Maa- nulth people had made their choice about their future. Of those who voted, 80 percent were in favour of the Maa- nulth Final Agreement, and of the total eligible voters, 68 percent were in favour. Perhaps as gratifying for leaders and community volunteers was the 86 percent turnout of members. This was a convincing endorsement of their treaty.The vote count for three of the First Nations, Toquaht, Uchucklesaht and Ucluelet, took place in Port Alberni on Sunday, October 21, in an atmosphere of high expectation, The scene was the same for the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k’tles7et’h’ in their traditional territory near the northwest tip of Vancouver Island. Huu- ay- aht First Nation had three months earlier overwhelmingly ratified the agreement.
As the votes were counted and the results announced, it became clear that the long years of negotiation, the sustained effort to inform the communities and answer member’s questions, and the initiatives to find and enrol voters from far afield had paid off.
The way in which the Maa- nulth First Nations tackled the complexities and challenges of ratification is yet another indication of the single- mindedness with which they have pursued a treaty since entering the BC treaty process in 1993.
Indeed, as Mike de Jong, provincial minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation acknowledged, their quest for a treaty began much earlier than that and represented “in many cases a lifetime of work.”
Chief Councillor Robert Dennis said, “It was a very long fight. I think this was a result for our forefathers who worked so hard to get a treaty for our people.”
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