Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) and Canada Sign Groundbreaking Haíɫcístut Incremental House Post Agreement

Haíɫzaqv Nation Chief Councillor K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, Hereditary Chief Wígvíɫba-Wákas Harvey Humchitt Sr, and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation, sign the Haíɫcístut Incremental House Post Agreement on July 25, 2019. Photo courtesy Heiltsuk Tribal Council.
Kelly Brown, Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Chief Councillor K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett visit the λiác̓i bighouse being constructed in Bella Bella. Photo courtesy Heiltsuk Tribal Council.

Leaders of the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) Nation and the Government of Canada signed a groundbreaking agreement today that provides an investment of $36.96 million over three years in four Haíɫzaqv priority “House Post” areas, and additional funding for fisheries management, including increased training, enforcement authority and joint management of crab and salmon fisheries in Haíɫzaqv Territory.

Haíɫzaqv Nation Chief Councillor K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett and Hereditary Chief, Wígvíɫba-Wákas, Harvey Humchitt Sr. Haíɫzaqv Yimas, and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, took another step forward on the path to reconciliation by signing the Haíɫcístut Incremental House Post Agreement.

The house post refers to both past and present λiác̓i bighouses–the ones Haíɫzaqv were prohibited to build, the ones that were built by their ancestors, and the one that is being built today in Bella Bella (the first of its kind in the community in over 100 years).

The Haíɫzaqv use the concept of λiác̓i bighouse pillars for subject areas for negotiation to hold up the promise of Reconciliation with Canada. The areas addressed by today’s agreement include Self-Government; Housing and Infrastructure; Economic Development; and Language Revitalization and Preservation.

Throughout this process we have met Canada on a level playing field, and through the hard work of our community and joint leadership, we have developed a Haíɫzaqv-made version of how to do Reconciliation.

“Today’s agreement is the culmination of a three-year Haíɫzaqv-driven process, that began with the question, “What would Reconciliation with Canada look like to Heiltsuk?” said K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Haíɫzaqv Nation. “We commend Canada for meeting us on our terms and showing that things can be done collaboratively. We look forward to walking more steps together on the path towards Reconciliation.”

The agreement is one of the first agreements concluded showcasing alternative pathways to Reconciliation in Canada, and was sparked by the Declaration of Haíɫzaqv Title and Rights in 2015, followed by the joint signing in January 2017 of Haίƚcίstut: Framework for Reconciliation, which established a shared vision, principles and objectives, and identified negotiating priorities most important to Haíɫzaqv.

Hemas Wígvíɫba-Wákas welcomes Minister Carolyn Bennett to Haíɫzaqv territory for the Haíɫcistut Incremental House Post Signing. Photo courtesy Heiltsuk Tribal Council

“In signing today’s precedent-setting agreement, we are not ceding any rights or title,” said Harvey Humchitt Sr., a Hereditary Chief of the Haíɫzaqv Nation. “Throughout this process we have met Canada on a level playing field, and through the hard work of our community and joint leadership, we have developed a Haíɫzaqv-made version of how to do Reconciliation.”

Other highlights of the agreement include investment in increased capacity at the Bella Bella Fish Plant; increased allocation of quota and licenses for the Haíɫzaqv Nation; additional salmon hatchery opportunities; and additional shellfish aquaculture opportunities.

Haíɫcístut Incremental House Post Agreement is the product of a Haíɫzaqv-led, results-based Reconciliation process. “Haíɫcístut” is a potlatch term that means to turn something around and make it right again. It speaks to creating a new path forward with Canada and Reconciliation on Haíɫzaqv terms.