The richness of this land and its rivers provides the very foundation of Taku River Tlingit kustiyixh, or ‘way of life’

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The Taku Conservation Area

Background

For many years, the Taku River Tlingit Nation has been preparing to reassume their full responsibilities as stewards of their ancestral lands. Through information gathering, research, community-based land planning, capacity building, and the creation of institutional structures such as the T’akhu  Tlèn Conservancy, the groundwork is being laid for the Taku River Tlingit to reclaim their rightful role.

Land Use Planning in British Columbia

In the early 1990’s, the Government of British Columbia initiated an ambitious process to complete strategic land use plans for all areas of the province. Many First Nations were reluctant to participate fully in these processes due to concerns that multi-stakeholder planning was ill-equipped to deal with aboriginal rights and title issues and did not afford First Nations appropriate recognition as sovereign Nations. Nonetheless, by the early 2000’s, provincial land use planning had been completed for the vast majority of British Columbia. One of the very few large and ecologically rich regions for which a land use plan had not been completed however, was the territory of the Taku River Tlingit Nation.

Tlingit Opposition to Ad Hoc Development

During much of this time, Tlingit efforts were focused not on pro-active planning, but in reaction to a proposed 99-mile road to assess a mine in the very heart of the Taku that would have severe and irreparable impacts on wildlife and fish, and Tlingit kustiyixh. This proposed project was symbolic of an ad hoc approach to development, in which significant decisions were to be made without adequate consideration of the need to balance the cultural values of the Tlingit, conservation and economic development. In 1998, in response to a decision by the British Columbia government to approve this mine and road, the Taku River Tlingit Nation filed a lawsuit arguing that Tlingit interests had not been appropriately considered. This challenge, heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, led to the landmark Taku/Haida rulings to reshape the nature of First Nation consultation and accommodation in Canada. As part of this ruling, the Court stated that further efforts were necessary to accommodate the interests of the Taku River Tlingit Nation, in part through the creation of a land use strategy for the area.

Preparations for Land Use Planning and the T’akhu  Tlèn Conservancy

The Taku River Tlingit Nation completed several milestone products in preparation for direct land use planning negotiations with the Government of British Columbia. These products included the Taku River Tlingit Territory Conservation Area Design, Hà t_átgi hà khustìyxh sìti: The Land is Our Future, Vision and Management Direction Document, and the Taku River Tlingit Tlatsini ‘The Lands That Keep Us Strong.  For descriptions of these products refer to the web section: Land Planning.

To assist with the implementation of these land planning products, in July, 2004, the Nation ratified through a Joint Clan Meeting the creation of the T’akhu  Tlèn Conservancy. The creation of this entity reflects the Taku River Tlingit’s commitment to use a variety of new approaches to conserve and maintain their lands wilderness characteristics and diverse wildlife and fish populations, and to secure a more prosperous and sustainable future for the Nation.