Gitga’at people have governed themselves for a very long time, but the way we do this has evolved over time and resulted in governance practices that retain our traditional practices while adopting modern governance methods. Traditionally, we lived on the land with our house groups and made political decisions with others through our clans. Our hereditary leaders made decisions about managing the resources on our territory with the help of our people, making sure that we had plenty in the years to come. We made decisions together about who our leaders should be, how to manage crime, and what our relationships with our neighbours should look like. This is still true, but politics have changed a lot since that time. In addition to all the traditional practices we’ve retained, we now have to consider our democratically elected leaders and their contributions in the areas of education, healthcare, social work, safety, and justice. In a Treaty, these various relationships need to be defined, and the Gitga’at Governance chapters set out the working details of these relationships.
The Indian Act has defined how we govern ourselves since 1876. Every major decision about governing the band council makes must be given approval by the Canadian Government. This gives the Canadian Government legal and political authority over the Gitga’at First Nation, especially decisions on reserve.
The Self-Government chapter of the Treaty describes how this relationship will change, giving our own government authority over its decisions. Like the Canadian Parliament and the BC legislature, we will have our own law-making process, and we won’t need another government to sign off on our decisions. With that, this chapter sets out how our government will be structured, and creates rules for making our government accountable to the law and to the people.
The Gitga’at First Nation also has relationships with other groups that are essential for the health and operation of our First Nation. This includes our relationships with service providers of health, safety, culture, education, business, social work, and justice.
All governments have relationships with other local and regional governments, including our First Nation neighbours. These relationships are a healthy part of being a Nation because we are not politically, socially, or economically isolated from any of these groups and Nations. For example, if the regional district of Kitimat was willing to offer us waterworks utility services, and it was in our interest to do so, we would want to be able to make an agreement with them for that service. This chapter makes legal space for our government to enter agreements with neighbouring First Nations, villages, and city governments.
Culture and Heritage
Gitga’at people have a constitutionally protected Aboriginal Right to practice our culture and heritage. For this reason, we will be afforded the legal space to make laws about our Culture and Heritage in Treaty. The Culture and Heritage chapter sets out the laws that we will be able to make, which include educational regulations for language and culture, and Gitga’at artifacts and archaeological remains.