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Gitanmaax Reaches Major Milestone with Settlement of Historical Claim Against Canada

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Gitanmaax is pleased to announce the settlement of the 1948 Surrender Specific Claim. The settlement involves Canada paying Gitanmaax $6,114,000 in exchange for Gitanmaax ending the specific claim and a related lawsuit. Members voted in favour of the settlement in a December ratification vote, and Council members and Canada signed the settlement agreement in February and March.

The specific claim was for breaches of Canada’s legal obligations to Gitanmaax in the surrender, or transfer, of approximately 36 acres of reserve lands in 1948. A specific claim is a way other than the court to file claims against Canada for its historical failures regarding reserve lands, First Nation funds, treaties, or other agreements.

“Gitanmaax leadership started demanding that the land be de-surrendered and returned to Gitanmaax as early as the 1950s,” said Chief Tracey Woods, “but Canada ignored these requests and continued to sell our lands to non-Indigenous settlers.” Land sales continued until the mid-1970s.

Chief Woods said that like many Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere, Gitanmaax and its members have been significantly impacted by the influx of settler societies. “So much was taken from us without our consent. This is why this settlement is so significant. It represents part of our ongoing process of correcting and mending some of what happened to us in the past so that we can continue to move forward into a bright future for us, our children, and coming generations after them. We are already moving forward in a good way, as people connected to Gitanmaax and one another. This settlement assists with that process.”

This is a huge milestone for Gitanmaax Council and the community, reflecting the efforts of generations of Gitanmaax leadership, community members, and Gitanmaax staff. Even those leaders and members who have passed, stand with Gitanmaax as this milestone in the community’s history is celebrated.

There will be further consultations and discussions about how the settlement funds can be used for the benefit of Gitanmaax as a whole.

Quick Facts:

  • Gitanmaax is a vibrant Gitxsan community (approximately 2500 members, 700 of whom live at one of Gitanmaax’s reserves) located near the confluence of the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers in northern BC.

  • Gitanmaax is the largest reserve-based community (by population) of the Gitxsan people.

  • Gitanmaax means people using torch light fishing, referring to the nighttime fishing technology historically used by the Gitxsan people of the area.

  • The Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en House Groups, headed by their traditional Chiefs, litigated the well known Delgamuukw-Gisdayway lawsuit which made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Media Contacts

Chief Tracey Woods

Deputy Chief Crystal Muldoe

Dianne Shanoss
Executive Director, Gitanmaax Band

Above via Gitanmaax Band Office 250-842-5297

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