Survey training sets up next steps for Xatśūll


Xatśūll First Nation’s Lands Coordinator Sally Sellars has been taking part in a Survey Capacity Development Program.
Land surveying is the cornerstone and first step of development, says Senior Surveyor Rod Zelli, who’s been leading the program.
“Through the Survey Capacity Development Program, our main goal is to highlight the importance of the… survey framework,” says Zelli. “How important it is to maintain proper development. When it comes to proper development, we’re talking about putting the land to the best use, increasing efficiency and making sure we do it in order to preserve the land and make sure that the way we develop it doesn’t jeopardize the future development for future generations.”
Research has shown that encroachment problems, development problems and other land-related issues are because at one point in time bypassing the survey fabric, not using it or not doing a survey in the first place, he says.
“Through this program, we train First Nation communities and participants in how they can actually access the survey fabric and access information the best way they can use the existing tools. There are lots of good tools, beautiful tools available to land offices, land managers they can use but if they don’t know how to use them or they don’t know that they exist, they’re useless right?” he says. “We train them to
The program has been running since December 1, 2020, with classes every Tuesday for a few hours as well as some field days in July and August with a few more coming up in September.
The training has been helping with some short-term issues, such as when the Nenqayni Treatment Centre lease was up for renewal earlier in the year and needed a preliminary survey done to identify the boundaries. That was needed because the centre has grown since its beginning 20 years ago.
Perhaps more importantly, looking forward, there’s a need for lot development throughout the communities of Deep Creek and Soda Creek, says Sellars.
While there’s some lot development underway, in order to move forward, the businesses on both the Soda Creek and Deep Creek communities need to be surveyed including Pioneer Log Homes, the Xatśūll Development Corporation, the Whispering Willows Campsite, the Emporium and the Band Offices to avoid future conflicts. Additionally, any new lots will have to be surveyed as well as existing homes and traditional fields.
“This has been a good experience. It has been a long year of doing this project,” she says. “Now I can go on the land surveying sites and know what I’m looking for and how to get into these different websites to find the Soda Creek information. I think that’s all going to help a lot.”
Sellars explains that surveying the lands is quite important for future development.
“People go ‘you’re on the reserve, what’s the difference of a couple of feet?’ But it actually is going to make a difference 20 years from now when there’s more development and everybody’s squishing in together. Then you can’t do that anymore. This takes us towards the First Nations Land Management Act.”
Williams Lake First Nation is already under the First Nations Land Management act which helps them move forward with projects like new condominiums while Xatśūll is still under the Indian Act, making it more difficult to proceed.
To that end, the Treaty Manager is currently working on bylaws.
“We’re not using them right now but that’s what it’s going to be like. [WLFN] has their bylaws in place and all their little laws are done now and we’re not there yet. They have it certified and so now they’re not under the Indian Act anymore whereas we still are. That’s the big difference.”
If the boundaries within the existing communities are settled, that would also make it easier when it comes to Treaty Settlement Lands in the future.
For Xatśūll it will probably take about five years to become part of the Land Management Act, she says.
With the training provided through the program, the Band will also be able to save thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future by having staff complete a large portion of the surveying work, particularly preparation.
As part of the training, they completed surveying of the new administration building at WLFN and have been surveying the new housing development there.
identify the tools, understanding them, using them towards completing their work and day to day business.”