From the Chilliwack Progress.
A treaty with the Yale First Nation was initialled Friday in the band's community hall while Sto:lo protesters rallied in the rain just down the road at Camp Squeah.
The picturesque church camp was the original signing site until organizers got wind of the protest by the Sto:lo Tribal Council, which represents most of the Sto:lo people.
"It's very deceitful to the rest of the Sto:lo," Grand Chief Clarence Pennier, president of the tribal council, said about the last-minute move of the ceremony's location.
"They're supposed to be open and honest and all that sort of thing."
Tyrone McNeil, STC vice-president, said avoiding the protesters won't make it any easier for the Yale to control the canyon fishery.
"The message we heard from our fishermen today was that signing the Yale treaty doesn't mean anything to us. We're going to continue fishing. It's our land."
Sto:lo fishermen at the rally said they would fight to keep their traditional fishing sites, no matter what the Yale treaty says.
But BC Aboriginal Relations Minister George Abbott downplayed the "emotional" dispute in a telephone interview with The Progress following the signing ceremony.
"It's unfortunate we weren't able to do the event at the camp site," he said, but some Yale parents were concerned about a confrontation with protesters and the safety of their children.
About 15-20 children were introduced personally by Yale Chief Robert Hope to Abbott and to federal negotiator Bill Dymond, who stood in for Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl at the ceremony.
Abbott said the government is aware the tribal council intends to launch a legal challenge to the treaty, but added "it's not unusual to see various aspects of a treaty challenged in court."
He said the treaty is still "a very positive step forward for the Yale First Nation" offering economic development opportunities to the nation's 150 members.
"We believe treaties are one of the best tools for advancing economic opportunity for First Nations," he said.
Chief Hope said the treaty gives the Yale people "our life, our freedom and confirms our land."
"The certainty it brings provides a solid economic foundation upon which to build for future generations of Yale members," he said.
The final agreement, which must still be ratified by the Yale people and by federal and provincial governments, contains provisions for self-government, and for financial and land transfers.
About 1,966 hectares of former Crown lands and reserve lands makes up the treaty settlement lands.
The Yale First Nation will get capital transfers of $10.7 million and another $2.2 million for economic development.
The final agreement includes allocations of sockeye, pink, coho, chinook and chum salmon for food and ceremonial purposes. A harvest agreement, separate from the treaty agreement, provides for commercial fishing.
Public access and trespass upon Yale First Nations lands is subject to the same rights and limitations as other private lands in B.C.
It is this provision, effectively requiring the permission of Yale officials to access canyon fishing sites, that has rankled Sto:lo fishermen, who say their families have fished the sites for generations - without needing permission.