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The Lax Kw'alaams Band in Prince Rupert is making headlines after presenting its 3,600 members last week with an offer worth more than $1.1-billion, in exchange for their consent to the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal within their traditional territories.

It's likely not the last proposed deal on that scale: The Haisla First Nation in Kitimat, for example, expects no less should the LNG Canada facility go ahead in its backyard.

The package on offer to the Lax Kw'alaams and the other Tsimshian nations in the region where the Pacific Northwest LNG facility is proposed establishes the new benchmark for sharing the wealth of resource development with First Nations. It also presents a challenge to those members who will be making these decisions.

"It bothers me that so much money is being flashed around to bring First Nations on board for developments that are risky," says Judith Sayers, a former chief of the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni. She's not anti-development – she's in the Canadian Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame – but she is skeptical about the environmental trade-offs involved.

The LNG offers are big – possibly unprecedented – because the potential scale of development is huge.

Only a handful of Coastal First Nations would likely stand to benefit in such a significant way – and only if those developments end up in commercial production. There are still regulatory hurdles ahead and no final investment decisions have been reached.

The Lax Kw'alaams deal is being heralded as a game changer, however, because it represents a large and multigenerational stake in the resource development sector being offered to a First Nations community where no treaty exists.

The province, desperately keen to secure an LNG industry to meet its 2013 election campaign promises, has agreed to contribute as well, in the form of a transfer of Crown land worth more than $100-million.

The value of this one-off deal, if the project is ever built, is more than the band would likely stand to benefit from achieving a treaty, and doesn't preclude further economic development deals.

The Lax Kw'alaams will get to vote in a series of meetings held in three communities between May 4 and 12, by a show of hands.

Rejection would be a setback for both the company and the province, and it would also be a strong message to the investment community: If $1.1-billion and the promise of jobs to a community of 3,600 isn't enough, what is the price of consent in B.C.?

Details, however, will count. There is no explanation of how the benefits would be distributed in the two-page proposal shared with band members. Although the value of the package works out to roughly $320,000 a person over the life of the 40-year deal, the band council has not yet explained how those dollars will flow.

Dr. Sayers, an adjunct professor of business at the University of Victoria, hopes band members will be take a careful look at the fine print.

"For most First Nations communities, a billion dollars is huge," she said. That's money that can transform a community: She noted the youth suicide rate in the Lax Kw'alaams community dropped appreciably after the installation of a new recreation centre and swimming pool.

"Those are some of the things that money can bring. But you have to ask, can you keep your traditions, your culture against what development brings? What it would look like postdevelopment – is that the world you want your great-grandchildren to live in?"

With so little progress at the treaty table, these kinds of economic deals are increasingly the default path toward reconciliation with First Nations in B.C. It is an imperfect solution to solving the land question in a province where unsettled aboriginal title claims dominate. But it is progress, at least, that the Lax Kw'alaams have a choice.