Songhees sue for Uplands area land
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The key to launching the lawsuit was finding historical documents, Morahan said.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.