B.C.’s Nisga’a becomes only First Nation to privatize land

The northwestern B.C. First Nation has approved the privatization of 3 homes

CBC News, Nov 04, 2013SUN0701-Granville5.jpg

The Nisga’a Nation in northwestern British Columbia has become the only First Nation in Canada to let its people own tribal land privately.

The First Nation’s land registrar says it has now signed off on the first three transfers of property to individuals in the Greenville area of the remote First Nation’s land.

The community’s leaders say that by allowing their people to own private property on tribal land, something most aboriginal people living on reserves can’t do, they’ll be able to get a loan, using land as collateral.

And they believe with those loans and opportunities will come new businesses and the prospect of prosperity.

The Nisga’a government’s economic development officer Bert Mercer is among the first to apply to become a private property owner. He is proud to show off his home and the well-groomed grounds it stands upon.

“It’s going to add value, an additional $30,000 maybe,” he says.

But many critics have raised concerns about the privatization of First Nations lands, saying it’s a step toward losing their lands, and perhaps toward assimilation.

Toronto lawyer Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick and a harsh critic of private land ownership for First Nations.

Nisga'a government's economic development officer Bert Mercer is set to become a property owner of his land. He's one of the first to take advantage of the new law.

Nisga’a government’s economic development officer Bert Mercer is set to become a property owner of his land. He’s one of the first to take advantage of the new law.

“Once you put it into the hands of individuals, it’s gone, especially for impoverished individuals,” she says.

The Nisga’a acknowledge that once citizens own their land they can transfer it, sell it or will it to anyone including non-Nisga’a. It could even be seized by a bank in a bankruptcy, but they say the risk is worth it.

Unprecedented and historic moves

The Nisga’a was the first B.C. band to sign a modern treaty with the provincial and Canadian governments in 1998. The controversial deal gave the Nisga’a 1,930 square kilometres of land in the lower Nass Valley, self-government powers akin to municipal governments and $190 million in cash.

Nisga’a people were exempt from paying sales tax for a transitional period of eight years after the treaty’s signing, but in 2008, the Nisga’a started to pay GST and PST, as well as taxes on fuel and tobacco as part of the historic treaty.

The Nisga’a Lisims government passed the Nisga’a Landholding Transition Act in November, 2009, giving members a chance to own their own homes on native land in B.C.’s Nass River Valley, north of Terrace.

They are now able to mortgage their property or transfer, bequeath, lease, or sell it to anyone they choose, aboriginal or non-aboriginal. The system is voluntary and all private land will remain subject to Nisga’a laws.


Posted on November 4, 2013, in Colonization, Indian Act Indians and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. That is just messed up. Say goodbye to your land Nisga’a….even your small reserve lands.

  2. Hereditary Chief Kahkakew Yawassanay

    This is without a doubt one of the lowest moments for. Indigenous peoples….They are now considered a municipality…basically Canadians…they are no longer Indigenous..taxing their own…bad enough their dominat religions are christian based and anti traditional, now they are enacting white laws on their own..pathetic and once again white government waves $$$$ in tribes faces and they fall for the scam…What is next….treaty indians signing out of treaties?? Modern day treaties are unlike the numbered treaties not recognized in international laws meaning the Nisg’aa are just brown white people now with no inherent rights except for their little box of land…their ancestors must be in agony..and how many other BC tribes are following suit..this is as bad as Bill C-31, recognition of billionth breeds(aka metis), but then again that is only from immigrant governments of Canada and BC…hereditary leaders do not accept Bill C’s, the metis being Indigenous or elected and appointed leaderships…time to reinstae their authority people

  3. Why didn’t they put a stimulation in the deeds that only Nisga’a can own the land deeded or sold.. for hundreds of years.

  4. Rosie Augustine

    The Worst thing you could have done to our native lands …..Rosie Augustine Elsipogtog First Nation

  5. I am Mohawk native from six nations in ontario,the largest native rez in Canada. i can only see major problems and turmoil if we had to pay any type of taxes here.i am only one voice but i strongly believe the concensus here would be unanimous against any taxes being applied here.

  6. what a disgrace, what ever happen to this land is not for sale???

    • The Nisga’a “leadership” are among the most advanced in terms of assimilation and probly never agreed to the slogan “this land is not for sale,” as we can now see.

  7. all i see is the old indian script coming back same old story

  8. sell out. thats my opinion.

  9. Way to go congrats

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