Nisga’a leader mourned

Nisga’a leader mourned
Written by Citizen staff
Friday, 27 November 2009

An aboriginal leader who played a critical role in the creation of Canada’s first modern treaty is dead.
Nelson Leeson, president of the Nisga’a Lisims government, died Thursday in Prince George. His age was unavailable.
According to the Globe and Mail, Leeson helped craft the Nisga’a Treaty, a landmark agreement between the Nisga’a Nation, centred in northern B.C. in the Nass Valley and the province. It was signed in 1998.
“He was a friend and a mentor and just embodied what great leadership was about,” said Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley. “He fought for his people with dignity and intelligence. He was a rare bridge-builder.”
The Nisga’a Final Agreement was the first treaty since B.C. entered Confederation in 1871. It gave the 6,000-strong nation about 2,000 square kilometres of land north of Terrace, a one-time payment of $191 million as well as salmon and logging rights. It was considered at the time to be a model of aboriginal self-government as well as source of considerable controversy.
“Simply put, the treaty allows us to make our own decisions and to take responsibility for our own lives,” said Leeson in the agreement’s 2004-2005 annual report. “We enjoy our successes and learn from our mistakes. Now we have control over our land, forests, and shery and can develop them responsibly for the long-term. The question of ownership of the land is settled once and for all.”
Premier Gordon Campbell marked Leeson’s legacy by calling him an “extraordinary leader.”
“British Columbians join in mourning the loss of this strong leader and I offer my sincere sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.”