BC signs ‘landmark’ agreement with S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance to protect heritage sites

The agreement sees legal protection added for 45 heritage sites across Stó:lō Nation territory

BC signs ‘landmark’ agreement with S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance to protect heritage sites

British Columbia and S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance (STSA) have entered into a “landmark” agreement to protect heritage sites across Stó:lō Nation territory, the Ministry of Forests announced.

The agreement provides legal protection for 45 sacred, spiritual, and ceremonial heritage sites on Crown lands within Stó:lō Nation territory. It outlines a “consensus-seeking, shared decision-making process” between BC and STSA for ongoing heritage-site management. The agreement covers heritage sites in Central Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, and lower Fraser River watersheds.

The ministry noted that the agreement is the first of its kind in BC and was developed under the Heritage Conservation Act, which allows the province to enter into agreements with First Nations concerning the conservation and protection of their cultural heritage sites and objects.

“Protection of sacred Indigenous heritage sites is critical to the spiritual well-being of Indigenous communities and an important part of our reconciliation journey,” said Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy. “First Nations have long called for a more direct role in heritage conservation as part of reforming how heritage sites are administered in British Columbia. Through this pilot, we are acting on our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to protect these important sites.”

The ministry confirmed that the agreement would be in effect for one year. Before the agreement ends, both parties would evaluate its outcomes to determine if it will be extended, amended, or allowed to conclude. 

“For a very long time, the leaders of our organization, representing the 17 Stó:lō First Nation members of the S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance, have worked toward enhancing our decision-making authorities over activities that affect our lands and our resources,” said STSA political spokesperson Angie Bailey. “Special attention has been given to the protection of our sacred heritage sites, including our places of transformation, our ancestral cemeteries, and our places of cultural practice.”

“The agreement marks an achievement in our efforts to gain greater recognition of our Indigenous culture and heritage, as well as our Indigenous rights as stewards,” Bailey added.

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