BERGLUND FAMILY TO TRANSFER 45.7 ACRES OF ȾIKEL (MABER FLATS) TO W̱SÁNEĆ NATION
Culturally & ecologically significant land to be restored by W̱SÁNEĆ people for traditional use
Brentwood Bay (Victoria), BC – The Berglund Family, via Brentwood Developments Ltd., and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council are pleased to announce the transfer of 45.7 acres of land in the heart of ȾIKEL (Maber Flats) to the W̱SÁNEĆ Lands Trust Society under the Ecological Gifts Program. This transfer, and the subsequent restoration of an abundant wetland at this site, will be a significant cause of celebration for the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation who have been rendered largely landless as a result of colonization. This project will also be the first ever donation of land in Canada under the Ecological Gifts Program made to an Indigenous organization.
ȾIKEL was originally an abundant wetland network used, cultivated, and managed by W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples as a place to collect food, medicines, and other materials central to W̱SÁNEĆ culture, economies and identity. Of specific importance is SX̱ ELE,IȽĆ (pacific willow), harvested at the site to make reef nets; a unique W̱SÁNEĆ technology that enable W̱SÁNEĆ to fish at sea.
Today the area has been largely drained and converted to farmland. Despite this, it still provides some habitat for over 175 migratory bird species and for the last few years Brentwood Developments Ltd. have been allowing it to retain some water seasonally for this purpose. Fully restoring wetlands and removing invasive species in the area will provide valuable habitat for native plants and migratory birds, while also cushioning the impact of agricultural and commercial run-off on downstream watercourses and the Saanich Inlet. ȾIKEL is essential to the attenuation of winter storms in the Peninsula, reducing flood-related damage.
Following the transfer, W̱SÁNEĆ intends to restore this property and return the peat bog at the site to its full capacity. Restoration would also provide W̱SÁNEĆ with places to reestablish traditional harvesting practices, build connections to culture, exercise their rights and title and promote conservation through education.
The Berglund Family (John, Linda, Brian and Lara) has owned the properties since 1989, primarily leasing the properties to nearby farmers, most recently to grow barley. However, upstream development and a lack of Municipal infrastructure to handle stormwater inundation has changed the use of the land considerably, and the property has been difficult to manage. Finding a balance of use on the property between Ecological interests, farming uses (for which it is zoned) and access had left the property in a stalemate, with very little support from various levels of Government. The Berglunds approached the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) about options for the property or donation possibilities, in which an introduction to the W̱SÁNEĆ was curated. The options presented through HAT made the decision to work with the W̱SÁNEĆ easy. About the transfer, Brian Berglund, Vice-President of Brentwood Developments Ltd. says, “We are so pleased to be able to return this property to its traditional stewards, the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. The more we learned about W̱SÁNEĆ history and stewardship, the more returning this property to their care made sense. And, for this to be the first donation of its kind in Canada, it’s extremely exciting for us. We look forward to seeing W̱SÁNEĆ restore and reconnect with this site and hope that our donation inspires other landowners to follow suit.” This donation to the W̱SÁNEĆ follows a recent land donation in 2020 in North Saanich by the Berglund Family, where they gifted land to Habitat for Humanity for the purpose of building ten affordable homes.
Chief Don Tom, Chair of the WSANEC Lands Trust Society shares, “The return of ȾIKEL is cause of a big celebration for our people, the WLTS intends to work with W̱SÁNEĆ people and community groups, across all band affiliations, on the restoration and management of this land in perpetuity. This transfer is a historic event – one of many to come – benefiting all W̱SÁNEĆ Community members.”
Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is a regional land trust operating on South Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands and has also been instrumental in supporting the arrangements for the ultimate return of this property to W̱SÁNEĆ. Katie Blake, HAT’s Special Projects Advisor, shares “We are really proud to have supported this land donation with our resources and capacity. HAT believes Indigenous-led conservation efforts like this one are key to aligning the protection of biodiversity with the important work of reconciliation and the advancement of Indigenous sovereignty. We’re excited to see our friends in the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation regain the ability to directly steward an important part of their territory.”
The W̱SÁNEĆ Land Trust Society (WLTS), a registered charity and approved Ecological Gifts Recipient, is dedicated to providing a place for land to be returned for the benefit of the W̱SÁNEĆ people who were stripped of their lands. Although the main goals are to help future generations of W̱SÁNEĆ people access to land for cultural purposes and to positively impact the environment through W̱SÁNEĆ stewardship, the WLTS will also seek land back for collaborative projects such as community housing and economic development initiatives.
The ability to attract private land return opportunities is of particular importance to W̱SÁNEĆ because of high rates of private land ownership within W̱SÁNEĆ territory which results in very little land available for return through reconciliation processes with the Crown. The WLTS accepts land donations to the W̱SÁNEĆ people and monetary donations to facilitate their work.
Although the WLTS was developed through the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC), it now stands as its own Land Trust entity and is a separate legal body from WLC. WLTS is actively raising funds to facilitate the transfer and restoration of ȾIKEL, as well as future land donations through their website at www.supportlandback.com
Chief Don Tom
Chair, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Chief,
Tsartlip First Nation
Cell (250) 813-3315
Brentwood Developments Ltd.
Interim Executive Director
Habitat Acquisition Trust
Cell (250) 216-7157