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Province returns nearly 100 hectares of land to shíshálh Nation

kwentan makw’ali is on the south shore of Salmon Inlet, north of Sechelt

The provincial government has returned 247 acres of Crown land to shíshálh Nation as part of ongoing efforts toward reconciliation and honouring the Foundation Agreement signed in 2018.

The 99.6 hectare parcel of land, called kwentan makw’ali, is approximately 16 kilometres north of Sechelt, on the south shore of Salmon Inlet. It’s a heavily forested area with few roads, and was once a winter gathering place for the nation, hiwus (Chief) Warren Paull told Coast Reporter. Ceremonies for weddings, births and deaths were held there.

“The return of land is just one important step on the journey of reconciliation between our two governments,” Paull said in a Nov. 12 press release. “It is another example of how by working together to transform our relationship we can make real change.”

A joint press release from the two governments announced the return of the land, after Paull, councillor Selina August, Murray Ranking the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and MLA Nicholas Simons toured the shíshálh swiya (territory) on Nov. 12. They visited several cultural sites in Sechelt Inlet, including the coastline of kwentan makw’ali by boat.

“shíshálh territory, or the swiya, is truly breathtaking, and I was honoured to have the opportunity to celebrate all we have accomplished together, including the transfer of kwentan makw’ali to the Nation,” Rankin said in the press release. “We are proud to work together with the shíshálh – in a long-term, government-to-government relationship, that supports shíshálh community wellness and regional economic development.”

In the past year, the province has returned a total of 1,522 acres of land to shíshálh Nation for economic development, but this is the first time land on Salmon Inlet has been returned, Paull told Coast Reporter on Nov. 15. Although land in the Salmon Inlet area was requested by the nation during the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission of 1913 to 1916, the request was denied at the time.

kwentan makw’ali includes a beach with the potential for seafood, such as clams, cockles and oysters, Paull said. The nation is actively pursuing the return of other land in the area, including the location of long houses.

It will take time for the land to be fully transferred to the shíshálh Nation, Paull said, and it is currently land in fee simple.

“This is another good step on the path of reconciliation,” Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and MLA for Powell River - Sunshine Coast, said. “This agreement is another example of how our commitment to reconciliation is being put into action.”

The return of kwentan makw’ali is supported by the Foundation Agreement, which was signed in 2018. As well as the recent land transfers in the past year, the provincial government has also contributed $9 million to support plans to build and operate new affordable housing.