Cowichan Tribes has purchased the 350-acre Genoa Bay Farm, located near Duncan, for $10 million.
Chief William Seymour said the First Nation is still trying to determine what it wants to do with the property, which currently consists of farmland, forests and a beach front.
But he said there is a possibility that some sort of housing development could be constructed on a section of the property.
“We have no big plans yet and we may leave the land as it is for the time being,” Seymour said.
Seymour said the province and Ottawa agreed to pay for the land on behalf of Cowichan Tribes, and the investment by the senior levels of government will be recouped when the final treaty settlement with the First Nation is signed.
Seymour said one of the stipulations for Ottawa and Victoria to purchase the property on behalf of Cowichan Tribes is that it had to be available and have a willing seller.
“This land is important to us because it was part of our reserve, with people living on it, until the 1800s when the government expropriated the property and sold it,” he said.
“It’s possible that someone will remember who actually lived there at the time when it was still part of our reserve. It would be nice to reclaim some of our past history, as well as our land.”
Seymour said Genoa Bay Farm is currently in the jurisdiction of the Municipality of North Cowichan, but Cowichan Tribes will work towards having it returned to reserve land status.
“If we leave it as is, we would have to pay taxes to North Cowichan,” he said.
“As well, any plans we have for the property would have to go through North Cowichan, but if it becomes part of our reserve again, we can do pretty much what we want with it.”
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he doesn’t believe that Cowichan Tribes would need to negotiate with the municipality if it wants to return the property to reserve land status.
“The Malahat Nation did a similar thing awhile ago with property that belonged to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and the district didn’t have any say in it,” he said.
“It would be no great loss for North Cowichan. It’s agricultural land and there isn’t a lot of tax revenue from it for us. Returning it to reserve land would give Cowichan Tribes more flexibility and leeway with their plans for the property.”