Delgamuukw: Ten Years Later
Celebrating the Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa Decision
It is with great pride that the National Centre for First Nations Governance commemorates the tenth anniversary since the Supreme Court of Canada’s historic Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa decision. By clearly recognizing and accommodating our rights under the law, and the Crown’s legal obligations, this victory has been an integral element in First Nations advancing their own particular rights on their lands, in their communities, in the courts and at the negotiating table.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa ultimately rejected the Crown’s longstanding position on many fronts. No longer do we have to stand by and watch as our traditional territories are being sold, infringed upon and misused. We have the Inherent Right to our lands, meaning that since time immemorial we have occupied and used those lands and have the right to decide what is done with them.
The courts have defined the duty to consult and accommodate. This means that First Nations must be meaningfully engaged at the highest strategic levels of planning. A letter advising First Nations of an infringement is no longer acceptable — First Nations must have a seat at the negotiating table, otherwise the court can nullify any transactions that have occurred on the lands in question.
First Nations people have always cherished our elders as more than an opening and closing prayer. Their immense knowledge, however, had never been recognized as qualified evidence in land claim negotiations — now it is. Our oral traditions have assisted us to preserve our rich cultural history. They helped to define who we are; they told stories of hope and documented our past. Just as we have always honoured their value, now the courts will as well.
These are just some examples of how the Delgamuukw/Gisday’wa decision helps us rebuild our nations. The National Centre for First Nations Governance proudly bases the work that we do on many of the principles outlined in that landmark Supreme Court decision and the subsequent legal judgements which emerged from it. We welcome you to explore our web site to find out more about us and the work we do with those nations who choose to organize and exercise their true rights and their jurisdiction outside the Indian Act.
For far too long, the spirit in the land was not respected. Our traditions were not respected. We, as the original inhabitants of this land, were not respected. With this decision, and others like it, we have won the recognition that we rightfully deserve. And with this recognition, we can continue to instill memories of hope and a legacy of victory into our future generations of First Nation leaders.
Together, we can move toward change.
Satsan (Herb George)
President, National Centre for First Nations Governance