Ownership and jurisdiction of Xaxli’p Survival Territory has been held by Xaxli’p since time immemorial. Our ancestors have lived in and planned the protection and use of Xaxli’p territory for thousands of years. We have learned the rules of proper land use from this place—land, water, plants, and animals. Under our management, ecosystems were able to support Xaxli’p needs, including hunting, fishing, and gathering food, medicinal, and textile plants.
Throughout the 1900s, the Province of British Columbia influenced the management of Xaxli’p territory through legislation and introduction of industrial forestry. Despite the actions of the provincial and federal governments, we have been persistent in asserting Xaxli’p title and rights, and expressing our philosophy and methods of land protection and management with both government and potential third party development interests. Throughout the past century, Xaxli’p has used several strategies to achieve control over management of Xaxli’p Survival Territory. The signing of the Community Forest Agreement in 2011 is our most recent interim step in asserting Xaxli’p decision-making authority within our Survival Territory. Reestablishment of Xaxli’p ownership and jurisdiction will eventually occur through a just and hounourable agreement with Canada and B.C.
Over one hundred years ago, on May 10, 1911, Xaxli’p signed the “Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe”. The Declaration identified three main goals: to assert that St’at’imc are the rightful owners of their traditional territory, to obtain a measure of justice from white leaders and governments, and to join other tribes in B.C. in a movement for their mutual rights. The declaration continues to be an important document for St’at’imc, and Xaxli’p continues to work towards achieving the three goals.
In the late 1990s, we used several strategies with the Province of British Columbia to develop agreements that adequately respected and protected Xaxli’p management authority over Xaxli’p Survival Territory. These strategies include the Joint Stewardship Agreement of 1992, and the Joint Resource Advisory Council between 1992 and 1997. Unfortunately, these strategies were not successful in developing a management agreement that respects and protects Xaxli’p management of their survival territory. BC insisted upon retaining decision-making control over Xaxli’p Survival Territory, which is unacceptable to us.
As a result of the work of the Joint Resource Advisory Council, an Integrated Resource Management Strategy was developed in 1997. Specific goals for the Integrated Resource Management Strategy included:
Due to differences in management approaches and disagreements over decision making authority, the Integrated Resource Management Strategy has not been put in use. However, the four important Xaxli’p goals led to the development of the Xaxli’p Forest Policy in 1998 and the Ecosystem Based Plan for Xaxli’p Survival Territory in 2001.
Our Forest Policy requires that all people seeking to use Xaxli’p Survival Territory must have our permission and must follow an ecosystem-based approach to land use. The Xaxli’p Forest Policy describes our values, and our principles and standards for forest protection and use. Our Forest Policy remains in effect, and is respected by our own planning and use of our Survival Territory.
The Ecosystem Based Plan (EBP) is a Xaxli’p plan that describes our vision of land protection and use, and defines our management system for Xaxli’p Survival Territory. We have implemented the Ecosystem Based Plan in our Survival Territory to balance human uses with protection of the diverse, fragile ecosystems in our territory.
The Xaxli’p Traditional Use Study (TUS) was developed in the late 1990s, in the same time period that the Ecosystem Based Plan was prepared. Our TUS left no doubt that we are the rightful owners of Xaxli’p Survival Territory. The Traditional Use Study and the Ecosystem Based Plan provided important information during treaty negotiations, act as higher level plans for managing Xaxli’p Survival Territory, and provide a basis for evaluating past, ongoing, and potential industrial development within Xaxli’p Survival Territory.
With our TUS, EBP and Forest Policy, we looked for methods of asserting our approach to ecological and cultural sustainability with British Columbia. At that time, Xaxli’p was engaged in a treaty process. The first opportunity for a Community Forest Agreement came about as an interim measure, pending the development of a just and hounourable treaty agreement. A Community Forest Agreement would provide Xaxli’p with exclusive control of the timber and most non-timber resources within Xaxli’p Survival Territory, and would make it easier for us to implement the Ecosystem Based Plan. Xaxli’p chose to leave the treaty process, but continued to pursue a Community Forest Agreement.
In 2003, the Province of British Columbia introduced Forest and Range Agreements (FRA), later referred to as Interim Agreement on Forest and Range Opportunities or FRO. These agreements provide for revenue-sharing and forest tenure opportunities for First Nations. Xaxli’p saw an FRO as an opportunity to secure a Community Forest Agreement that was guided by the Xaxli’p Traditional Use Study and the Ecosystem Based Plan. Over the course of one year we successfully negotiated an FRO that included a Community Forest Agreement. Our Interim Agreement on Forest and Range Opportunities was signed in 2006.
The Xaxli’p Community Forest Corporation (XCFC) was created in December of 2008 to apply for and manage the Community Forest Agreement (CFA), as outlined in the Forest and Range Opportunities Agreement. The Xaxli’p Community Forest Corporation prepared and submitted our Community Forest Agreement Application in 2009. The Community Forest Agreement Application used materials from the Traditional Use Study and the Ecosystem Based Plan to develop the management plan for the CFA. The Xaxli’p Forest Policy has been incorporated into the CFA management plan as the “Statement of Guiding Principles and Goals.”This process of incorporating our plans and policy into the CFA ensured that Xaxli’p would be able to implement the Ecosystem Based Plan through the Community Forest Agreement, and that the Traditional Use Study and Forest Policy would be guiding documents for all planning and operations of the Community Forest Agreement. The application was accepted in 2010, and the Community Forest Agreement was signed on March 2, 2011.
An important aspect of the CFA Application is the Mission Statement and Goals found in the management plan. This statement guides the work of XCFC, and, together with the Forest Policy completes the “Statement of Guiding Principles and Goals” for the Xaxli’p community forest.
The story of the Xaxli’p Community Forest is a unique example of persistence and hard work that have provided us with an important interim measure that recognizes our control over Xaxli’p Survival Territory. Over the past century, we have used many strategies and developed plans to assert and implement control over our Survival Territory. Efforts in negotiating agreements with government that acknowledge Xaxli’p management systems and authority over our Survival Territory have been difficult. However, our successful negotiation of the Xaxli’p Community Forest Agreement through persistence and dedication is a very positive step in achieving this goal.
Xaxli’p Community Forest Corporation (XCFC) carries out ecologically and culturally sustainable land use for the benefit of Xaxli’p people, considering the needs of present and future generations.