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Treaty Rights

On April 3, the first modern urban treaty in Canada—between the Tsawwassen First Nation and the government of B.C.—comes into force. It’s the life’s work of the band’s young chief, Kim Baird.
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Tsawwassen First Nations Kim Baird Image
Kim Baird, five-term chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation, on her sovereign land. Behind her rises Tsatsu Shores, and over the horizon lies Roberts Bank David Fierro
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On April 3, the first modern urban treaty in Canada—between the Tsawwassen First Nation and the government of B.C.—comes into force. It’s the life’s work of the band’s young chief, Kim Baird.

“I am going to explain to you gentlemen how our ancestors were created in this place, right over at the high land here known as Scale-Up, or English Bluff.” This is how Harry Joe opened his arguments before the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission on Indian Affairs during its hearings at the Tsawwassen Indian reserve on April 28, 1914. He began with a story about arriving, and that’s the important part. After all these years, with Joe’s great-granddaughter, Kim Baird, at the middle of it, the story is still about arriving.

English Bluff is a place name that comes from the 1910 Admiralty Chart. Scale-Up comes from S’tlalep, a complex Hun’qum’i’num term that can be rendered as I Want From Now and Everlasting. Harry Joe was a prosperous fisherman and farmer who proudly displayed his vegetable varieties at the New Westminster agricultural exhibition every year. He was also chief of the Tsawwassen Indian band.

The grievance that Chief Joe put before the royal commission was this: back in the 1860s, the government had been disgracefully parsimonious in its allocation of reserve land to the Tsawwassen people. There was still good farmland around the village, Chief Joe said, but it was going to waste. Indians had been legally prohibited from pre-empting and developing land, so they had to settle for whatever the government gave them. Chief Joe and his people once owned all the land they could see for miles and miles around, and they’d been left with almost nothing. The Tsawwassen people needed more land.

The royal commission said no.

Harry had a son, Simon, who married Philomena “Birdie” Adams from the Katzie tribe. Simon and Philomena had a daughter named Edith who moved to Langley and married a white man named Lorne Baird. Edith raised four sons and a daughter, Kim. After Lorne died, Edith and her children led something of a vagrant life but eventually arrived back at the Tsawwassen reserve and settled down.

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