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[AE75] Land management: a precedent for Canadian First Nation

As we celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2021, we take a look back at our legacy of achievements and milestones over the years, as chronicled in our company newsletter that began publishing in 1967...

Originally appeared in AE Today, Winter 1975 issue

For the first time in Canadian history, a First Nations band has been given the authority to manage its own land. On November 6, 1974, the Sechelt Indian Band of the Sechelt Peninsula, just north of Vancouver, had final details confirmed by the band's housing authority administrator, Gilbert Joe, in talks with the federal Department of Indian Affairs. Since November, the band has been authorized to sell homes on leased band property.

Until last year, with all First Nations land held in trust by the Crown, it was impossible for First Nations to lease their lands directly, or even to arrange financing through a bank. Now, four Sechelt band members are agents of the Crown under the Minister for Indian Affairs, Judd Buchanan, and have the same powers as appointed civil servants.

For a two-year period, while it negotiated for self-management privileges, the Sechelt Band cleared land, installed telephone, hydro, cablevision, and waste services, and built foundations for modular homes. Tsawcome Properties, the name of the development, is located five kilometres south of Sechelt. 

The housing project started in 1972 when band manager, Clarence Joe, made inquiries about 120 houses that were to be removed from an old army camp in Ladner. The band could not afford to buy the houses, but the Department of Indian Affairs bought them in 1973 and offered them to the Sunshine Coast Tribal Council. As a result, 60 houses went to Powell River First Nations, 40 to the Sechelt band, and the remainder to smaller reserves.

Throughout the laying of foundations for the modular homes and the installation of sewer and other systems, the Sechelt Band has had a full-time economic consultant in employ, while Associated Engineering has been retained as the consulting engineers for the overall development of the housing projects on a continuing basis.

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