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Land back: Tsawout First Nation buys 40-hectare agricultural property

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A First Nation on southern Vancouver Island has expanded its land base by 15 per cent, from 242 to 282 hectares.

Tsawout First Nation purchased a property that borders the community for $5.6 million.

“I’m overjoyed to let the nation members know this is now Tsawout First Nation’s land again,” Chief Abe Pelkey told CTV News in an interview.

“Without a land base, we’re not a people, so expanding our land base is amazing.”

About five months ago, the previous property owner approached the nation asking if they wanted to buy it.

“We graciously accepted,” Pelkey said.

“This is solely a Tsawout initiative. Nobody helped us do this.”

The agricultural land sits between Tsawout First Nation and Island View Beach on the Saanich Peninsula.

Tsawout First Nation paid $5.6 million for a parcel of land that borders the community.

The seller had previously made an agreement allowing a farmer to hay the land, which the nation will honour. While the timeline is unclear, once the agreement ends, Pelkey said community members will be consulted about the land’s future use.

“The land misses our tongue, our language, our practices,” he said. “That’s why we’re here today — to welcome ourselves back to the land.”

It was once part of a village site, he said, and had been promised to Tsawout in the Douglas Treaties of the 1800s.

Community members expressed their excitement about the acquisition during Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on Thursday.

“Our community is growing and families are growing, but the size of our reserve hasn’t grown,” said Jennifer Claxton, who works in Tsawout’s fisheries department.

“We really need to expand and have opportunities like this to create a better future for our youth.”

Tsawout First Nation members participate in Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on June 20th.

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