Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-mqbnt Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-30T10:50:39.225Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

“This Is Going to Affect Our Lives”: Exploring Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the Government of Canada and British Columbia’s New Relationship Through the Implementation of the Maa-nulth Treaty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018

Vanessa Sloan Morgan
Geography Program, University of Northern British Columbia Prince George, British
Heather Castleden
Department of Geography and Planning, Queen’s University at Kingston Kingston,
Huu-ay-aht First Nations
c/o Tayii Haw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief), Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Port Alberni Government Office Port Alberni, British


Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary since Confederation in 2017. At the same time, Canada is also entering an era of reconciliation that emphasizes mutually respectful and just relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown. British Columbia (BC) is uniquely situated socially, politically, and economically as compared to other Canadian provinces, with few historic treaties signed. As a result, provincial, federal, and Indigenous governments are attempting to define ‘new relationships’ through modern treaties. What new relationships look like under treaties remains unclear though. Drawing from a comprehensive case study, we explore Huu-ay-aht First Nations—a signatory of the Maa-nulth Treaty, implemented in 2011—BC and Canada’s new relationship by analysing 26 interviews with treaty negotiators and Indigenous leaders. A disconnect between obligations outlined in the treaty and how Indigenous signatories experience changing relations is revealed, pointing to an asymmetrical dynamic remaining in the first years of implementation despite new relationships of modern treaty.


Le Canada a célébré le 150e anniversaire de la Confédération en 2017. Parallèlement, le Canada s’engage actuellement dans une ère de réconciliation promouvant la mise en place de relations justes et respectueuses entre les peuples autochtones et la Couronne. La Colombie-Britannique (CB) qui a une position unique, par rapport aux autres provinces canadiennes, sur le plan social, politique et économique n’a ratifié que peu de traités historiques. Conséquemment, les gouvernements provinciaux et fédéraux ainsi que les autochtones tentent de définir de « nouvelles relations » par le biais de traités modernes. Les nouvelles relations qui apparaissent sous ces traités demeurent toutefois imprécises. À partir d’une étude de cas, nous explorons la nouvelle relation entre la CB, le Canada et les Premières Nations Huu-ay-aht – signataires du Traité Maa-nulth mis en œuvre en 2011– en analysant 26 entrevues réalisées auprès des négociateurs du traité et des dirigeants autochtones. Une rupture entre les obligations énoncées dans le traité et la manière dont les signataires autochtones expérimentent les relations changeantes est mise en exergue; une rupture qui laisse entrevoir un maintien de la dynamique asymétrique au cours des premières années de la mise en œuvre du traité, et ce, malgré les nouvelles relations des traités modernes.

Copyright © Canadian Law and Society Association / Association Canadienne Droit et Société 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Community co-authorship is used in the authors’ academic-community partnership as directed by hereditary and elected leadership, and approved at Huu-ay-aht citizen engagement sessions. This practice was re-affirmed under the research agreement that guides our work together and is renewed on a project-basis. As explained in the research approach of this paper, Huu-ay-aht contributed significantly to all stages of the research process; collective co-authorship also represents Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ ownership of the knowledge shared herein.



Baird, Chief Kim. 2011. Away from the Indian Act: Treaty self governance at Tsawwassen First Nation. Aboriginal Policy Study 1 (2): 171–81.Google Scholar
BC Laws. 2007. Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement Act. [SBC 2007] Chapter 43.Google Scholar
Blomley, Nicholas. 1996. ‘Shut the province down’: First Nations blockades in British Columbia, 1984–1995. BC Studies no. III: 535.Google Scholar
Blomley, Nicholas. 2003. Law, property, and the geography of violence: The frontier, the survey, and the grid. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 93 (1): 121–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
British Columbia Claims Task Force. 1991. The Report of the British Columbia Task Force. Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 1996. Nuu-Chah-Nulth Framework Agreement. Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2014. Annual Report. Recommendation 8: First Nations Resolve Issues Related to Overlapping Traditional Territories among Themselves. Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2016a. Negotiations, Treaties, Reconciliation, UN Declaration. Vancouver, BC: Annual Report.Google Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2016b. Treaty Negotiations Embody Reconciliation and the UN Declaration. Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2017. Ditidaht & Pacheedaht First Nations. British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2017. Scholar
British Columbia Treaty Commission. 2018. Negotiation Update. May 16, 2018. Scholar
Coulthard, Glen. 2014. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Culhane, Dara. 1998. The Pleasure of the Crown: Anthropology, Law, and First Nations. Burnaby, BC: Talonbooks.Google Scholar
Dacks, Gurston. 2004. Implementing First Nations self-government in Yukon: Lessons for Canada. Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 37 (3): 671–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daigle, Michelle. 2016. Awawanenitakik: The spatial politics of recognition and relational geographies of Indigenous self-determination. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien 60 (2): 259–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Department of Justice Canada. 2012. Consolidating the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982. Scholar
Diabo, Russell. 2014. Harper launches major First Nations termination plan: As negotiating tables legitimize Canada’s colonialism. In The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, ed. The Kino-nda-niimi Collective, 51–64. Winnipeg, MB: ARP Books.Google Scholar
Dokis, Carly. 2015. Where the Rivers Meet: Pipelines, Participatory Resource Management, and Aboriginal-State Relations in the Northwest Territories. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.Google Scholar
Egan, Brian. 2012. Sharing the colonial burden: Treaty-making and reconciliation in Hul’qumi’num territory. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien 56 (4): 398418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eyford, Douglas. 2015. A New Direction: Advancing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2015. Scholar
Foster, Hamar. 2009. ‘We want a strong promise’: The opposition to Indian treaties in British Columbia. Native Studies Review 18 (1): 113–37.Google Scholar
Fowlie, Jonathan. 2013. Christy Clark projects $100 billion LNG windfall for B.C. in throne speech. The Vancouver Sun, February 11. Scholar
Government of British Columbia. 2018. News Release: Province, Maa-nulth Strengthen Treaty Relationship. Scholar
Government of British Columbia, Government of Canada, and The Leadership Council Representing the First Nations of British Columbia. 2005. Transformative Change Accord. November 25. Scholar
Government of British Columbia and The Leadership Council Representing the First Nations of British Columbia. 2005. The New Relationship. Scholar
Government of Canada. 2009. Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement Act. S.C. 2009, c. 18.Google Scholar
Government of Canada. 2017. Indian Band Council Procedure Regulations. Justice Laws Website.,_c._950/.Google Scholar
Government of Canada. 2018. 2018 Budget Plan: Reconciliation. Budget 2018. February 27. Scholar
Harris, Cole. 2004. How did colonialism dispossess? Comments from an edge of empire. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94 (1): 165–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Henderson, James (Sakej). 2002. Sui generis and treaty citizenship. Citizenship Studies 6 (4): 415–40.Google Scholar
Hunter, Troy. 2016. Era of reconciliation: a sacred relationship. LawNow: Relating Law in Life in Canada, March 1. Scholar
Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nations. 2012. T’ašii: An Orientation Manual to Support First Nations of Maa-Nulth Treaty and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District Regional Cooperation. Port Alberni, BC.Google Scholar
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2014. Audit of the Implementation of Modern Treaty Obligations . 2014. Scholar
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2015. Cabinet Directive on the Federal Approach to Modern Treaty Implementation. 2015. Scholar
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2016. 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Scholar
Irbacher-Fox, Stephanie. 2009. Finding Dahshaa: Self-Government, Social Suffering, and Aboriginal Policy in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
Land Claims Agreement Coalition. 2017. What Is a Modern Treaty? Scholar
Maa-nulth First Nations. 2003. Statement of Intent by the Maa-Nulth Nations. Port Alberni, BC. Scholar
Maa-nulth First Nations. 2007a. Maa-Nulth First Nations Final Agreement. Houpsitas, Ittatsoo, and Port Alberni, BC. Scholar
Maa-nulth First Nations. 2007b. October 21, 2007: Vote Count Results (Final). Scholar
Mack, Johnny. 2009. Thickening Totems and Thinning Imperialism. MA Thesis, Victoria, BC: University of Victoria. Scholar
McCreary, T. A., and Milligan, R. A.. 2013. Pipelines, permits, and protests: Carrier Sekani encounters with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. Cultural Geographies 21 (1): 115–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meissner, Dirk. 2016. B.C. Treaty negotiation process looks to speed up agreements, set deadlines. CBC News, June 8. Scholar
Miller, James. 2009. Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Molloy, Tom. 2000. The World Is Our Witness: The Historic Journey of the Nisga’a into Canada. Calgary: Fifth House Publishers.Google Scholar
Nadasdy, Paul. 2003. Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Restructuring of Aboriginal-State Relations in the Southwest Yukon, Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.Google Scholar
Nadasdy, Paul. 2012. Boundaries among kin: Sovereignty, the modern treaty process, and the rise of ethno-territorial nationalism among Yukon First Nations. Comparative Studies in Society and History 54 (03): 499532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadasdy, Paul. 2017. Sovereignty’s entailments : First Nation state formation in the Yukon. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Newman, Dwight. 2009. The Duty to Consult: New Relationships with Aboriginal Peoples. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing.Google Scholar
Pasternak, Shiri, and Dafnos, Tia. 2017. How does a settler state secure the circuitry of capital? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, June.Google Scholar
Penikett, Tony. 2006. Reconciliation: First Nation Treaty Making in British Columbia. Vancouver: Douglas & MacIntyre.Google Scholar
Rossiter, David, and Wood, Patricia. 2005. Fantastic topographies: Neo-liberal Responses to Aboriginal land claims in British Columbia. The Canadian Geographer 49 (4): 352–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roth, Christopher Fritz. 2002. Without treaty, without conquest: Indigenous sovereignty in post- Delgamuukw British Columbia. Wicazo Sa Review 17 (2): 143–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sloan Morgan, Vanessa, and Castleden, Heather. 2014. Framing indigenous–settler relations within British Columbia’s modern treaty context: A discourse analysis of the Maa-Nulth Treaty in Mainstream Media. International Indigenous Policy Journal 5 (3).Google Scholar
Smith, Andrea. 2018. Treaty loan forgiveness will take millions in debt off the backs of First Nations. Windspeaker, March 6. Scholar
The Tsilhqot’in Nation. 2016. Nenqay Deni Accord: The People’s Accord. Scholar
Thom, Brian. 2008. Disagreement-in-principle: Negotiating the right to practice Coast Salish culture in treaty talks on Vancouver Island, BC. New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry 2 (1): 2330.Google Scholar
Thom, Brian. 2009. The paradox of boundaries in Coast Salish territories. Cultural Geographies 16 (2): 179205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wood, Patricia Burke, and Rossiter, David A.. 2011. Unstable properties: British Columbia, Aboriginal title, and the ‘New Relationship.’ Canadian Geographer 55 (4): 407–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Woolford, Andrew. 2005. Between Justice and Certainty: Treaty Making in British Columbia. Vancouver: UBC Press.Google Scholar
Haida Nation v. British Columbia. 3 S.C.R 73. Supreme Court of Canada 2004. Retrieved from Scholar
R. v. Sparrow. 1 S.C.R. 1075. Supreme Court of Canada 1990. Retrieved from Scholar
Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. 2014 SCC 44. 2014. Retrieved from Scholar
Haida Nation v. British Columbia. 3 S.C.R 73. Supreme Court of Canada 2004. Retrieved from Scholar
R. v. Sparrow. 1 S.C.R. 1075. Supreme Court of Canada 1990. Retrieved from Scholar
Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. 2014 SCC 44. 2014. Retrieved from Scholar