Liliane Squinas – Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, Betty Cahoose – Ulkatcho First Nation, Chief Clifford Lebrun – Lhtako Dené Nation and Chief Stuart Alec – Nazko First Nation, signing the Memorandum of Understanding on July 22, 2018 with Honourable Carolyn Bennett (centre), Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Tammy Keith photo

Local First Nations alliance works towards sustainable natural resource management

Four communities working together, along with provincial, federal governments, on strategic plan

Sage Birchwater

Black Press Contributor

The Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance (SDNA) is poised to expand its capacity to manage its traditional lands and resources in co-operation with the federal and provincial governments.

The Alliance, based in the Carrier Chilcotin Tribal Council (CCTC) offices in Williams Lake, was formalized in April 2017, when Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, Lhtako Dené Nation, Nazko First Nation and Ulkatcho First Nation made the decision to band together to work as a Nation to advance their Aboriginal title and rights and to bring benefits to their communities.

Historically, the Southern Dakelh Nation occupied a wide swath of Central British Columbia, from the Alberta border to the Central Coast. The Nuxalk-Dakelh Grease Trail followed by Alexander Mackenzie in 1793 served as a primary link uniting the four Nations between the Fraser River and the tidewater of the Pacific.

In July 2018, the SDNA signed a Foundation Framework Agreement with the Province of British Columbia, and a Memorandum of Understanding with Canada for recognition of rights and reconciliation.

Shawn Holte, lead negotiator for the SDNA, says the Dakelh name for the two agreements is Hubulhsooninats’ Uhoot’ Alh, meaning “Together we will fix it.”

Holte says that the negotiations with the two senior levels of government have been very positive: “Now the work is starting.”

The agreements provide multi-year economic certainty for SDNA to hire professionals and engage members of the four communities. One of their goals is to build capacity both internally and with non-First Nations neighbours to develop a land and resource stewardship plan.

Holte explains that SDNA’s goal is to effectively and sustainably manage the natural resources and land base across Southern Dakelh Territory. This process will involve collecting data such as traditional land use occupancy information and engaging with members, Dakelh knowledge holders and language speakers.

The SDNA is seeking out good people who want to work with them to realize the vision and goals set out in their agreements with Canada and the Province.

“It’s a chance for professionals to further their careers and work with other professionals on staff,” says Holte. “We need the best people. We want to capitalize on the great work that’s been done, and being done, and take it to the next level.”

To date, the SDNA has hired a land and resource officer, Karen Kubiski, who is a vegetation ecologist, and are in the process of hiring a traditional land use (TLU) social scientist and an accounting assistant. The SDNA team also includes executive assistant Tammy Keith and business officer Ray Joubert.

Job opportunities remain for a human resource administrator, communications officer, geospatial analyst, and stewardship forester.

“We’re currently in year two of our five-year strategic plan,” Holte says. “The four communities are committed to working together for the interest of their members and future generations.”

The SDNA connects with community members and provides updates twice a year in sessions held in Nazko, Ulkatcho and Quesnel. The most recent community update meetings were held this past September.

The chiefs of the four bands are the directors of the SDNA, Holte says. They are Chief Betty Cahoose of Ulkatcho First Nation, Chief Stuart Alec of Nazko First Nation, Chief Clifford Lebrun of Lhtako Dené Nation, and Chief Liliane Squinas of Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation.

To learn more about the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance, visit their website at www.dakelh.ca.

READ MORE: Cariboo First Nations alliance inks reconciliation agreement with Province


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