Williams Lake First Nation reaches $135 million interim settlement, 160 years after being evicted from its land

A British Columbia First Nation has reached a proposed $135 million settlement with the federal government, 160 years after settlers began taking land from its village.

Chief Willie Sellars of Williams Lake First Nation says a legal battle that began nearly three decades ago ended in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2018 before mediation began last year.

Sellars says village lands in what is now the town of Williams Lake were occupied by settlers contrary to the colonial government’s commitment to create a reservation, and many of their ancestors were displaced.

Members ages 18 and older will have the chance to ratify the settlement in a vote on June 29, and Sellars says three information sessions will take place between now and then, on May 12, 26 and June 9.

He says the $135 million deal is close to the $150 million maximum that could have been awarded, and he urges all First Nation members to support it for the sake of future generations.

Sellars says most of the money would go into a professionally run community trust, with the interest providing annual payments to members, while the rest would fund programs to bring back cultural ceremony and infrastructure, including housing and a community center.