Nisga'a Final Agreement

The Nisga'a Final Agreement, also known as the Nisga'a Treaty, is a treaty that was settled between the Nisg̱a'a, the government of British Columbia, and the Government of Canada that was signed on 27 May 1998 and came into effect on May 11, 2000.[1] As part of the settlement in the Nass River valley nearly 2,000 km2 (800 sq mi) of land was officially recognized as Nisg̱a'a,[2] and a 300,000 cubic decametres (1.1×1010 cu ft) (approx. 240,000 acre-feet) water reservation was also created. Bear Glacier Provincial Park was also created as a result of this agreement. Thirty-one Nisga'a placenames in the territory became official names.[3] The land-claim settlement was the first formal modern day comprehensive treaty in the province—[1] the first signed by a First Nation in British Columbia since the Douglas Treaties in 1854 (pertaining to areas on Vancouver Island) and Treaty 8 in 1899 (pertaining to northeastern British Columbia). The agreement gives the Nisga'a control over their land, including the forestry and fishing resources contained in it.

The agreement was signed on 27 May 1998 by Joseph Gosnell, Nelson Leeson and Edmond Wright of the Nisg̱a'a Nation and by Premier Glen Clark for the Province of British Columbia. Then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart signed the agreement for the Canadian federal government on 4 May 1999.


In 1887, the Nisga'a met with the then-Premier of British Columbia[4]: 14  to challenge the way in which the Chief Commissioner of Land and Works for the Colony of British Columbia was distributing much of Nisga'a traditional land in the Nass River valley to western settlers, in spite of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which recognized Aboriginal title in British North America and acknowledged the existence and continuity of Aboriginal self-government.[5]: 69 [6] By 1890, the Nisga'a Land Committee had been established.[4]: 14  In 1913 the Nisga'a sent a Petition to the British Privy Council in London requesting that their land claims be addressed by the King.[4]: 14  In response, the Canadian federal government passed a law making it illegal for First Nations to "retain counsel to pursue land claims".[4]: 14  In 1973, Frank Arthur Calder and the Nisga'a Nation Tribal Council won the landmark case, Calder v British Columbia (AG)[7] in which the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled for first time, that aboriginal title to land existed prior to the colonization of North America. Thomas Berger successfully argued that the Nisga'a title to their traditional lands had never been extinguished. Calder was the first of a number of land claims negotiated in favour of the rights of aboriginal peoples.[4]

The 1999, the Nisga'a Treaty acknowledged that "the Nisga'a people have lived in the Nass River Valley since time immemorial".[8][6]

Role of herary chiefs[]

The Final Agreement recognized that the herary chiefs Simgigat (herary chiefs) and Sigidimhaanak (matriarchs), Adaawak (oral histories) continued to play an important role in accordance with the Ayuuk (Nisga'a traditional laws and practices).[8]

Legal challenges[]

The constitutional legality of the Nisga'a Final Agreement was challenged by some Nisga'a under Laxsgiik chief James Robinson (Sga'nisim Sim'oogit) and Mercy Thomas, particularly the self-government and law-making powers of Nisga’a government. On October 19, 2011 the Supreme Court of British Columbia handed down its decision upholding the constitutional validity of the Nisga’a Final Agreement.


  1. ^ a b "Nisga'a Lisims Government". Government of British Columbia. nd. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Our Land". New Aiyansh, British Columbia: Nisga’a Lisims Government. nd. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Map of Nisga'a Lands and Treaty Placenames" (PDF). Government of British Columbia. nd. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Allen, Edward (September 2013). "Letter from British Columbia: reflections on the 40th anniversary of the Calder decision" (PDF). Northern Public Affairs. p. 7.
  5. ^ Rose, Alex (1 January 2000). Spirit Dance at Meziadin: Chief Joseph Gosnell and the Nisga'a Treaty. Harbour Publications. pp. 248. ISBN 9781550172447.
  6. ^ a b "Nisga'a Final Agreement". Nisga'a Lisims Government. New Aiyansh, British Columbia. nd. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Calder v British Columbia (AG)". Supreme Court of Canada (SCC=1970-1973). January 31, 1973. Frank Calder et al., suing on their own behalf and on behalf of All Other Members of the Nishga Tribal Council, and James Gosnell et al., suing on their own behalf and on behalf of All Other Members of the Gitlakdamix Indian Band, and Maurice Nyce et al., suing on their own behalf and on behalf of All Other Members of the Canyon City Indian Band, and W.D. McKay et al., suing on their own behalf and on behalf of All Other Members of the Greenville Indian Band, and Anthony Robinson et al., suing on their own behalf and on behalf of All Other Members of the Kincolith Indian Band v. Attorney-General of British Columbia {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  8. ^ a b "Nisga'a Final Agreement Act: Chapter 2 - Preamble". Province of British Columbia. 1999. Retrieved 24 October 2017.

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