APTN National News
Three First Nations in the Vancouver area have bought back a large tract of their land in one of the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods, in the latest of numerous site purchases by the three communities in their traditional territories.
The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh purchased 15 hectares of land in Point Grey earlier this month from the province for $480 million, with no help from investors.
The sale was negotiated with the three First Nations because of their rights and title to the area.
The so-called Jericho Lands lie on a former village site that was used by all three communities, and is believed to have also been used as a pedestrian roadway for their ancestors.
It now contains what is considered to be some of the most valuable real estate in Canada.
The land purchase adds to an adjacent 21 hectare tract of land that the three First Nations bought from the federal government two years ago.
Musqueam Coun. Wendy John said many people are looking at the deal “with dollar signs in their eyes,” but that the deal’s value is much more significant than money.
“The value to us is huge. Not monetary, but the feeling of being able to say it’s ours again in a complete ownership package,” John said. “I think the idea of the suffering of those who went before us, and the commitment that they made to bring us to where we are, is something that can never be measured in dollars, for sure, but it sure can be measured in spirit.”
Since the deal has gone through, some residents of the area have expressed concerns about what might happen to their homes.
But John said the communities will meet with residents as well as members of the three First Nations before making any decisions.
“They should be comfortable in knowing that we’re going to sit with them, we’re going to listen to them,” she said. “We’re going to ensure that we protect the lands and the integrity of this land, which is what our ancestors wanted us to do.”
The First Nations are also planning to create a corporation to manage their numerous land purchases around the Lower Mainland. The Jericho Lands is now the largest and most valuable tract of land owned by the three First Nations.
Squamish Chief Ian Campbell said a number of ideas are being considered for the area, but he envisions a visionary development that will showcase the area’s history and culture.
“This is a welcoming home for us to inspire our young people to get involved in these projects,” he said. “We’re not a vanished race. We’re here. It’s very exciting to look at the next chapter of our collective future as we move forward and engage in business and land development.”