Co-Management of Land-based Resources by the Tahltan First Nation in Northwestern British Columbia
The Tahltan First Nation have a long history of resource management in their traditional territory, which is located in the Stikine Watershed in Northwestern British Columbia. For more than a century, Tahltan First Nation have been adamant about the assertion of their rights, and their sovereign claim to the land. The Provincial Government has historically imposed underlying radical title on the traditional territory. This article reviews the history of Tahltan First Nation, and considers the methods, most notably co-management agreements, used by the Tahltan peoples to achieve desired economic, social, and environmental goals for their traditional territory and peoples. The Tahltan First Nation offer a prime example of what successful co-management looks like with Provincial Government, as well as with private natural resource enterprises.
The Tahltan Traditional Territory is located in the Stikine Watershed, in Northwestern British Columbia and spans close to 100,000 kilometres squared . The inhabitants of this territory are predominantly comprised of members of the Tahltan First Nation . The Tahltan Traditional Territory is divided into the three distinct communities of Dease Lake, Iskut and, Telegraph Creek, with Dease lake being the largest of the three . Additionally, there are two Indian Bands that form the Tahltan First Nation; the Tahltan Band, and the Iskut Band . There is an estimate of 5000 registered members of Tahltan Nation, and around 1000 of these registered members reside on their traditional territory . Starting from the 1970s, the population on the territory increased, as homesteaders migrated and settled .
Most of the territory is largely inaccessible by road, and instead only accessible via “helicopter, float plane, canoe, riverboat, horseback, sled and foot” . There are two main protected areas within the Stikine Watershed (where Tahltan territory is located), which are the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness, and Mount Edziza Provincial Park . The two main protected areas mentioned are connected by a third area, the Stikine River Recreation Area, which is also a protected area . Of importance also is that “The Stikine Watershed is part of the Skeena Management Region of the B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. It is covered by the Cassiar Iskut-Stikine Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), which gained official status in October 2000 after a five-year period of development and public discussion” .
Geographically, Tahltan territory is variable, ranging from coastal terrain to mountainous and inland plateaus . The Stikine River is a main feature of Tahltan territory and runs through the deepest canyon in Canada, namely “the Grand Canyon of Stikine” . As terrain varies so greatly, precipitation and temperature also vary substantially. Precipitation ranges from 40 centimetres to 300 centimetres dependant on geographical location, and inlands temperatures over the year vary from upwards of 35 degrees celsius in the summer and to a low of -50 degrees celsius in winter .
The area is diverse in geological features, and is “one of the richest and most active for mineral exploration and development in British Columbia” . It’s noted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development that commodities of interest within Tahltan territory “include precious metals (gold, silver and platinum); base metals (copper, lead, zinc and nickel); coal; oil and gas; industrial minerals (asbestos, wollastonite, sand and gravel); and precious stones (jade, agate and other gemstones)” . Mining in Tahltan Territory has gone on for thousands of years, and started with the extraction and trade of obsidian . From that, modern mining activities began in 1861 when a gold rush (of small scale) began on the Stikine River . Modern mining has occurred on Tahltan territory since the discovery of gold in 1861, and the “benefits that have accrued to the Tahltan people and their land have not always outweighed the costs” . The Tahltan peoples were used as guides, and as a result were trained by professional geologists to be prospectors . Much cooperation, as well as conflict have come as a result of mining companies using Tahltan Territory for their operations.
The governmental structure in Tahltan Territory has kept the same general frameworks as it has if we look back into history. Creyke writes, “Both historically and presently two clans comprise the Nation: the Ch‘iyone (Wolf) and the Tsesk’iye (Crow) clans” . The current government structure is composed of two band chiefs; one from Iskut Band and one from Tahltan Band, the chair of Tahltan Central Council (TCC), and a board of directors who are changed over every two years . Each member on the board represents a contemporary Tahltan family (of which there are ten). Creyke, quoting the TCC writes “although the Tahltan have never gone to court for issues regarding land and resources, we still assert our jurisdiction over our Traditional Territory, which was first recorded in the 1910 Declaration. As Tahltan Nation has organized it’s own governmental structure, this makes negotiating government-to-government much easier and provides them with more credibility. The Tahltan Central Council has now evolved into the Tahltan Central Government.
Land tenure between First Nation groups in British Columbia can be tricky, as treaty negotiations were not done in most parts of the Province. This makes it so that land claims are overlapping, mostly between the Crown and First Nation groups. In the case of the Tahltan Territory, this is exactly the case. The Province of British Columbia claims that “the lands, waters and resources of British Columbia, subject to certain private rights and interests, are Crown lands, waters and resources subject to the sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen and the legislative jurisdiction of the Province of British Columbia . In short, the Province of British Columbia believes Tahltan Territory to be Crown land.
The Tahltan Nation have a differing view. They signed the Tahltan Declaration on October 18th, 1910 which is a claim to the sovereign right to their territory . The agreement, as cited in the Shared Decision Making Agreement states a portion of this agreement as follows; “we claim the sovereign right to all the country of our tribe — this country of ours which was have held intact from encroachments of other tribes, from time immemorial, at the cost of our own blood. We have done this because our lives depend on our country. We have never treated with them, nor given them any such title. (We have only very lately learned the B.C. Government makes this claim and that it has for long considered as its property all the territories of the Indian Tribes in B.C.)” . Tahltan Territory was included in the formation of the Province of British Columbia and the Dominion of Canada without consent from the Tahltan peoples .
It is clear that there are divergent views in respect to land ownership and tenure in Tahltan Territory. However, the two governments do not let this disagreement get in the way of their relationship, and vision for resource development, among other things (notably environmental stewardship and protection). The Shared Decision Making Agreement also states, “without prejudice to their differing views with regard to sovereignty, jurisdiction, title and ownership, the Province and Tahltan intend to work collaboratively and are committed to engaging across a spectrum of land and resource issues to reconcile interests and improve business relationships and their government-to-government relationships to fulfill their respective legal obligations” . This clearly shows the willingness for cooperation between Tahltan First Nation and the Provincial Government, and the setting aside of differences to create a meaningful co-management relationship.
Tahltan First Nation have a multitude of agreements with the Provincial government, as well as with private resource companies that use Tahltan Territory for their industrial resource extraction operations. The arrangements between the parties in regards to Tahltan Territory outline the degree to which First Nation participation will occur, the benefits that will be provided, what safety mechanisms are put into place, and so on. At the end of the day, the Tahltan Nation wants agreements that are inclusive of them, and take into consideration their livelihoods, as well as the livelihoods of future generations. In a news article covering this topic, the author Tyler McCreary interviewed some of the Tahltan Elders, writing that “They 'stand strong to protect the land for future generations', a position they hold as ‘non-negotiatble’” .
The Tahltan First Nation group has a multitude of agreements between itself, and the Province of British Columbia. These include the Revenue Sharing Agreement, Tahltan - Province Government-to-Government Red Chris Mine Management Agreement, Shared Decision Making Agreement, and the Government-to-Government Northwest Transmission Line Negotiation Framework Agreement. All of these agreements have been made in a succession, building off of, and improving as each new agreement is ratified.
In 2011, the Government-to-Government Northwest Transmission Line Negotiation Framework Agreement was released, and is an agreement between the Tahltan Nation, BC Hydro, and the Province of British Columbia (represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, and the Minister of Energy and Mines). The general purpose of this agreement was the establishment of "an effective government-to-government working relationship including structures, processes and initiatives…” . This was to be used to achieve a set of objectives, including “Tahltan benefit from future development within territory including potential revenue sharing”. This agreement was also made as a way to advance reconciliation efforts between Tahltan and the Province of British Columbia. This agreement outlines plans for energy development to run through Tahltan territory, and stresses the desire for economic benefits in favour of the Tahltan in the form of revenue sharing with BC Hydro. 
In 2013, the Revenue Sharing Agreement was introduced, and is an agreement between Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia. The purpose of this agreement is “to share project revenue received by the province with the Recipient First Nation,” with the Recipient First Nation being the Tahltan Nation . The first page of the document states that “the Province supports the development of clean energy and the sharing with First Nations of revenue from clean energy projects, and respects the importance of government to government relationships…” . It also notes that in accordance with Part 6 of the Clean Energy Act enables the creation of a fund “which allows for the sharing of specified land revenues and water rentals with first nations” . The agreement states, in terms of payment, will pay the Tahltan the prescribed percentage of project revenue within 120 days of the end of a fiscal year.
Also in 2013, the Shared Decisions Making Agreement between Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia was released. The purpose of the agreement is to “foster effective, respectful and enduring Government to Government relationship,” which allows for “collaboration on land and resource issues a tangible step towards longer term reconciliation of their interests”. 
Intended Outcomes of this agreement, as quoted verbatim from agreement:
This agreement, released in 2017, is the most recent agreement between the Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia. It includes many aspects of the previous agreements between the Province and Tahltan Nation, however is project specific. The purpose of the agreement is to establish a “project specific relationship regarding the development, construction, operation and closure of the Mine, environmental management of the Mine, as well as the monitoring and enforcement of technical and environmental measures related to the Mine”. The agreement also states this (the agreement) as an “interim step” in the negotiation of a Land and Resource Decision-Making agreement that will be made to either amend or replace the existing Shared Decision Making Agreement that was previously discussed.
Notable Principles of the Agreement, as quoted verbatim from agreement:
Main Purposes of the Agreement:
Tahltan First Nation also has mine specific benefit/management agreements with industrial resource extraction companies. These agreements are enacted at NovaGold’s Galore Creek copper-gold-silver project, and Imperial Metals’ Red Chris mine (and others). These agreements include benefits in economic terms, as well as social and environmental.
Notable Terms, as quoted verbatim from agreement:
Notable Terms, as quoted verbatim from agreement:
After careful deliberation, it was found that main affected stakeholder group in the case of Tahltan Territory are the members of Tahltan Nation, who live directly on their traditional territory. Tahltan nation is comprised of the Tahltan Band, and the Iskut Band, and roughly 1000 of the 5000 members of the nation live directly on Tahltan traditional territory . This finding was evident, as the inhabitants of Tahltan Traditional Territory are reliant on their territory for subsistence and economic needs, as illustrated above in the Administrative Agreements section. Additionally, the Tahltan Nation have been inhabitants on their Traditional Territory long before colonial powers intruded, and have made a claim to their sovereign rights of the territory from time immemorial . Tahltan Nation holds a high degree of power on their territory, as there are many official agreements with the Province of British Columbia (as seen in the Administrative Arrangements section), as well as agreements with private enterprise for inclusion in activities. These agreements state that Tahltan have Aboriginal Rights within Tahltan Territory . These rights are protected in law.
Wildlife on Tahltan Territory have just as much of a stake as the Tahltan peoples. Species that exist on tahltan territory include “grizzly, black bear, woodland caribou (the Spatsizi herd of about 2,500 represents a quarter of the provincial population), mountain goat, Stone’s sheep, moose, wolves, foxes (red, cross-fox, silver fox and black fox), wolverine, lynx, porcupine, rabbit, squirrel, many small rodents, trumpeter swans, grouse, ptarmigan and many migratory birds”. Many of these species, notably woodland caribou, are classified as endangered or threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), or other conservation organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These animals rely on the Tahltan traditional territory for their livelihoods, and can be affected in various ways (such as habitat loss and destruction) by resource development.
|Interested Group||Role||Level of Power|
|Members of Tahltan Nation who do not live on Traditional Territory||Although not living directly on the territory, these peoples still have membership to Tahltan Nation and are subject to the same rights as people who live on the territory.||High|
|The Provincial Government, as represented by The Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation||Co-creation of agreements between Tahltan Nation and itself. Has the largest amount of decision making power. In most matters they may assert rights and may make changes for the betterment of the People of British Columbia. Guided by previous precedent from similar cases of co-managment on land with divergent views.||High|
|The Government of Canada||Has some sway, however British Columbia is largely autonomous and most land in BC is under Provincial Jurisdiction. Activities on Tahltan Territory can have an affect on the National economy. Minimal role - no treaty negotiations in the works.||Low|
|The People of British Columbia||Consumers of material produced on Tahltan Territory. Activity in Tahltan Territory can have an affect on jobs for British Columbians.||Low|
|Private Natural Resource Enterprise (NovaGold Resources & Imperial Metals)||Resource development in Tahltan Territory. Must comply with resource development regulation as outlined by agreements created between the Provincial Government and Tahltan Nation.||Medium|
The ultimate aims of co-management in Tahltan Territory is, in the opinion of the author, to capitalize on the divergent views on sovereignty of the Provincial Government and Tahltan Nation. As their views are divergent and both parties are firm in the assertion of their rights, the only logical and socially sensitive method is to manage the territory together as a cohesive unit, playing on the strengths and desires of each party. With the Provincial Government possessing a keen interest in resource development and the economic benefits associated with Tahltan Nation's Traditional Territory, it is only natural that the Tahltan peoples work with them in order to improve environmental practice, as well as play a stewardship role for the environment. Tahltan Nation also recognizes the economic potential of the mineral rich land, and is not completely against resource development, however want it done in environmentally sensitive ways. Overall, the main objective of co-management between the Provincial Government and Tahltan Nation is sustainable development, while keeping true to Tahltan values.
Resource development and co-management on Tahltan Territory has not been without controversy. Although the Tahltan Central Council has made and signed many agreements with the Province of British Columbia, as well as with private enterprise, they do not always represent the interests of every member of the Nation. There has been backlash and blockades in many instances as a response to resource development plans and exploration. In a number of cases, some Tahltan peoples who disagree with a project, such as the Red Chris Mine, have responded with blockades that prevent resource development personnel from entering project sites. Blockades can (and have in the past) lead to positive outcomes for the Tahltan peoples. An example given in the report of the Tahltan Mining Symposium done by the Institute for Sustainable Development, is that of the Golden Bear property in 1997 . The Tahltan staged a blockade, which ultimately led to a new path for the access road and directing it away from important moose habitat . It also led to Tahltan involvement in construction, and other mine services through the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation . Similar cases have been recorded in other instances in history.
From an outsiders perspective, co-management, although not without conflict, has been an achievement in itself for the Tahltan Nation, as well as the Province of British Columbia. Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia have been able to come to agreements without letting their divergent views on sovereignty, among other things, get in the way. These agreements should be considered achievements in themselves.
The Klappan Plan is a notable achievement and shows clear cooperation and co-management between Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia. The Klappan Plan is a land-use plan that breaks up the Klappan Area of Tahltan Traditional Territory into 3 areas of different land-use areas that require management plans. The three areas are 1) Sacred Headwaters Zone, 2) Zone 2, 3) Zone 3 . This plan “will be used as a guide to develop recommendations, which, when implemented, are intended to be resilient and enduring, for land and resource management and use in the Klappan Area, to achieve a number of goals" .
These goals include:
The Klappan Plan is stage 3 of a larger framework. The next steps are, 4) bringing recommendations for government review, consideration, and decision, and 5) implementation if accepted. In the process of building the Klappan Plan, the Klappan Decision-Making and Management Board . This point of the creation of this board was “to provide a decision making structure that will allow the zoning proposed in the Klappan Plan to be implemented, the Tahltan and the Province have agreed to establish the Klappan Decision-Making and Management Board” .
|This conservation resource was created by Nicholas Nieuwenhuis.|