Times Colonist

Songhees sue for Up­lands area land

- JU­DITH LAVOIE

The Songhees First Na­tion is claim­ing a large swath of land that takes in part of the Up­lands, the Royal Vic­to­ria Yacht Club, Cad­boro Bay vil­lage, Gyro Park and a rib­bon stretch­ing across to Tele­graph Cove.

Its claim stems from an al­legedly bro­ken prom­ise made 160 years ago and will be tested by a law­suit filed against the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments.

Lawyer Rory Mo­ra­han said the band is not try­ing to re­claim the land promised to it in one of the Dou­glas Treaties, but is ask­ing for com­pen­sa­tion and a dec­la­ra­tion that it is Songhees land.

A state­ment of claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court yes­ter­day, but it is likely to be at least a year be­fore the case is heard.

The key to launch­ing the law­suit was find­ing his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, Mo­ra­han said. “There’s oral tra­di­tion about the vil­lage site, but in the courts you need more than oral tra­di­tion. We have been work­ing on this for about a year, get­ting the de­tails down,” he said.

The treaty with the Chekonein peo­ple, an­ces­tors of the Songhees Na­tion, spec­i­fies that they would have 200 acres (80 hectares) around their Cad­boro Bay vil­lage site, ad­ja­cent to the beach, and about 40 acres (16 hectares) of ca­mas and po­tato fields.

“Un­der the treaty, the Songhees an­ces­tors were promised that their vil­lage sites and fields would be pro­tected for their use and the use of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, and that their vil­lages and fields would be prop­erly sur­veyed,” Mo­ra­han said.

The treaty was signed in Novem­ber 1851. James Dou­glas, then “chief fac­tor of the Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany and agent of the Im­pe­rial Crown,” in­structed the sur­veyor to re­serve six In­dian vil­lages of about 80 hectares each, one of which was the Chekonein vil­lage site at Cad­boro Bay, he said. In­stead, “the colony, or the prov­ince, ap­pro­pri­ated the lands and is­sued ti­tle to the lands to other par­ties — that is, non-abo­rig­i­nal colonists,” said Mo­ra­han.

In 2006, the Esquimalt and Songhees First Na­tions ac­cepted a set­tle­ment of $31.5 mil­lion af­ter fil­ing a law­suit claim­ing a chunk of down­town Vic­to­ria, in­clud­ing the B.C. leg­is­la­ture lands.

Songhees Chief Robert Sam did not re­turn calls yes­ter­day.

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