This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
In the spirit of reconciliation, the British Columbia government says it has purchased an $8-million ranch near Williams Lake to transfer to Xatsull First Nation as part of ongoing treaty negotiations.
On Aug. 7, an announcement was made at the central B.C. ranch.
Xatsull Chief Sheri Sellars said her community celebrates the milestone.
“I believe this is a sign of the changes that are needed to make reconciliation something real for our members and First Nations communities around the province,” said Sellars.
“The opportunity this creates puts the tools for economic development into the hands of a community whose life has always been centred around the land. The community is celebrating this achievement – one that provides for a future of security and self – determination for our members.”
The ranch provides economic development opportunities for their community in things like hay and cattle development.
The purchase includes nearly 4,000 acres of land, 500 cattle, equipment and two residences.
There is also a grant which will cover operating costs for one year.
The land will be leased to the First Nation until a land transfer is finalized upon completion of negotiations with the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw treaty team.
The Xatsull First Nation along with three other communities make up the treaty team, which is currently in the final stage of negotiations after 25 years.
Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said the province recognizes the importance of working together.
“These lands create a new economic opportunity for Xatsull First Nation. Recognizing the importance of this property to the nation makes this achievement even more meaningful,” said Fraser in a statement released Aug. 7.
“Working together and reaching milestones together opens up the path to treaty and long-term reconciliation, and that benefits the nation and surrounding communities.”
According to Sellars the ranch purchase started five years ago when owners Roger and Alison Patenaude reached out to her nation letting them know they were ready to retire.
“It was quite some time ago that they first came us. The Patenaudes approached the band in about 2015 in regards to us purchasing the ranch.”
The former owners are happy an agreement was made and wish the nation well.
“We are pleased to announce the sale of our ranch and assets to the Soda Creek Indian Band (also known as Xatsull First Nation) and wish them the best in their new adventure in the beef industry,” said the Patenaudes in a statement.
The purchase of the ranch created a solution for treaty negotiations and moved them forward.
It also created an opportunity for the band to be involved in one of the region’s economic drivers.
“As anyone knows in the interior we are all ranch oriented around us,” said Sellars.
“So it was a really good stepping stone for our First Nations to step into ranching.”
By Lee Wilson