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REPORTING · 22nd January 2015
Walter McFarlane
There was a lot to celebrate in Kitamaat Village on Wednesday, January 14th. A Feast was held as a part of the signing over of the MK Bay Marina Lands from the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine which the Haisla Nation had purchased. Present for this historic event, were elders, members and leaders of the Haisla Nation, Directors of the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, representatives of Kitimat City Council, and local leaders of business and industry.

“It’s a long history, with the Haisla and the American Indian in general, and it’s not a good one. We’re not here for revenge, we’re not here to fix it. We’re here to make our way back, to become the rightful owners of the territory, not just on paper, but in legal terms, traditional terms, cultural terms, any terms you can think of, that’s what you want. I do not want my kids or my grandkids to continue begging for money from Ottawa. I don’t want our people to exist under the Indian Act forever and think that Treaty is the answer. We have got to start looking at ways to sustain ourselves. This agreement is symbolic of those very first steps that we take to get our people towards independence,” said Chief Councillor Ellis Ross.

“It’s a win/win situation for the Haisla People, and the town, and the surrounding areas. Everybody’s a winner. There is no loser in this deal. MK Bay Marina will be fixed up the way it’s supposed to be. […] We won’t be turning away anybody. We want them to come back,” said Hereditary Chief Sammy Robinson.

He explained they wanted the marina to be world class, and although it will not be done overnight, he knows it will arrive at this point.

Mayor Phil Germuth from Kitimat was present as well and wished the Haisla Nation the best with MK Bay. “We look forward to seeing MK Bay become the jewel it was always meant to be to the boaters of the Northwest,” said Germuth.

“This has been a momentous occasion for all of us,” said Regional District Chair, Stacey Tyers. “We are so appreciative and so grateful that we are now able to turn these lands back over to the Haisla Nation, and that this will benefit the Region as a whole, but more importantly, the land is going back to where it belongs.”

She explained a lot of time and a lot of work went into these negotiations. She explained the Haisla have been working with the Regional District on the Marina since 1974. It has been a source of revenue and employment for the Haisla Nation.

Tyers stated the Regional District should be getting out of the marina business as it is not a core service of government and the Haisla and their business partners are willing to take it over, upgrade and expand the marina.

“I’m very honoured, pleased, happy, everything, for what’s happening here,” said Robinson.

Ross stated the Haisla Nation is going to let the business partners decide the pace and amount of development which will be done on the Marina. They have committed money for the initial phases.

He explained he has seen the conceptual designs, a picture of which was given as a gift during the feast. He stated there are plans for more births and slips than are there now. He also suggested there is going to be a lot of thought going into the changes to the marina, even the name could change depending on what the Haisla Community decides.

“Some of the stuff that I’ve heard from our partners and our advisors: they’re talking about restaurants, better docks, better breakwater,” said Ross. “I’m pretty curious myself to how it’s going to look.”

The next stage involves the acquisition of Lot 98 to compliment the MK Bay Operations. Lot 98 is a piece of land, owned by Rio Tinto Alcan which is the across the road from the marina. In 1998, Rio Tinto Alcan and the Haisla were in negotiations about transferring the land to the Haisla at no cost, but there were complications due to MK Bay Marina. The discussion has been in limbo since then, but now that the Haisla Nation own MK Bay, there is hope the land can be transferred quickly. The Haisla Nation is also in negotiations for other lots which Rio Tinto Alcan owns.

“I really hope the District of Kitimat and the Regional District really understand the significance of this agreement and what it means to our people. Land right next door to us that didn’t belong to us. We now own it,” said Ross.