Onkwehonwe Week in Review: August 4, 2016

Trudeau supports Site C mega project despite treaty grievances

Site C is a controversial mega dam that is located on the Peace River near Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. The $9 billion project led by BC Hydro intends to flood 80 kilometres of the best agricultural lands of the north. Construction has been underway for almost one year accompanied by one year of resistance to the project.

Fierce opposition has arisen in the face of the mega project.  A diverse coalition of indigenous peoples, environmentalists, academics and local landowners are speaking out against the treaty violations that are in progress. “The government signed Treaty 8 in the early 1900s on our territory. They proceeded to pressure Indigenous people to follow and obey it, but in turn they do not honour our treaty rights. We were promised to live and thrive, continuing our ways of life, our livelihoods. We did not surrender, rent or sell our lands,” said Yvonne Tupper, member of Treaty 8.

West Moberly and Prophet River First Nation took the B.C. government to court seeking a nullification of the environmental assessment that approved the mega project; however, the claim was denied in 2015. Unfortunately, the project is illuminating the idea that jobs are more important than the environment.  The Site C project will likely provide power to several Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) stations, which will double B.C. carbon emissions.

Site C opponents hoped that Justin Trudeau, who made promises to uphold treaty rights and the environment, would support their cause. A federal appeal will be heard in British Columbia in September. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said that she is disappointed that the Liberal government would approve permits before the court made its ruling. “It is agonizing to witness the starting gun for a race between bulldozers and justice. This project is a clear violation of treaty rights.”


First Nations man makes petroglyphs alive again with care and visitation

Chris Nelson of the Nuxalk Nation is a lead tour guide with Copper Sun Journeys in northern British Columbia. His father and he are also care givers of a sacred site that is dated more than 10, 500 years old. Images of animals and the supernatural world are deeply carved in boulders located on Thorsen Creek in the Bella Coola Valley.

Nelson believes that the area was used by “higher ranking societies” like societies of chiefs, mask dancers, healers and highly respected elders. The images tell stories of the earth. Visiting every day, Nelson sings songs to honour the sacred place that his ancestors frequented many thousands of years ago, and to this day.

“It is a very sacred site to me.  I go up there with my family at times and even winter months when there’s snow, at night, midnight, when the full moon is high in the sky. It is a very spiritual place and we do connect with Creator that way,” Nelson said. He intends to keep sharing knowledge of a place that is hidden in a rainforest on a towering cliff through guided tours.

The sacred site was “refound” during the 70s when logging permits were issued; however, Nelson said that his people always knew they were there. Archaeologists dated the site to be over four or five thousand years old, however an elder dated one of the areas to be more than 10, 500 years old. The site is between 30 and 40 kilometres up the valley.

Nelson believes that his ancestors used many different methods to create the petroglyphs. To get a good idea of the kind of work that went into making this ancestral artwork, Nelson instructed some of his students to use stones to try to etch an image into stone. After a full day’s work, Nelson said that their work was like a “chalk mark on a black board”.

Considering that the petroglyphs have lasted for thousands of years, it makes one wonder which methods were used so many thousands of years ago. Nelson reminds us that we are not a people stuck in a historical past. “We live our histories through dance, song and stories.”


First Nations along the North Saskatchewan River facing crisis after Husky Energy oil spill

Following a spill that leaked 222,000 litres of oil and chemicals into the North Saskatchewan River last week, many First Nation communities downstream are living through water restrictions that has seen some communities facing up to four days without access to tap water. Truckloads of water, as well as bottled water, are being shipped to the communities like Muskoday First Nation.

The community of Muskoday has about 800 people living on reserve and is located 15 kilometres north of Prince Albert, Sask. One elder said that she was shocked to learn that an oil pipeline was running underneath the river. “Water is our main thing, what we need. We can get along without anything else, but the water we need,” said elder Shirley Gerard.

A quarter million litres of oil and chemicals spilled 500 kilometres downstream on July 21. Booms were deployed to minimize the risk of the spill, but these methods were quickly deemed ineffective as high water levels and debris over ran the measures. As a result of the carelessness, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are calling for a boycott, including divestment, of Husky Energy and services. The company has polluted one of the world’s freshest water sources. “To poison this source of life for a great number of people, animals and plant life is a tragedy and we must hold the company to account for this,” said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said that the resumption of water supplies to the rural areas would have to wait until his city had its water sources in place; however, a group of Opaskwewayak Cree women have been holding ceremony for the water. “The water is sacred,” said Jackie Crow, one of the organizers. “That is what is really missing from everything that is being talked about. One resource we cannot do without, as human beings, is water.”


Huron-Wendat oppose music festival on ancestral lands

The WayHome Music Festival in Oro-Medonte, Ontario happened on top of land that archaeologists have confirmed to be sites wherein Indigenous peoples once lived and died. Pottery fragments, stone axes and a human skull were found during a report commissioned by Burl’s Creek, the owner of the festival.

Because of the report, the province of Ontario couldn’t support Burl Creek’s permit according to a letter sent to Burl’s Creek’s archaeologist Jamie Lemon of Golder Associates from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport; however, the township of Oro-Medonte issued a restricted permit for the use of 92 acres. Mayor Harry Hughes said that this is because the 92 acres is properly zoned for such an event.

Booked acts for the WayHome Festival included the Killers, Arcade Fire and a Tribe Called Red.

“It’s totally disgusting to First Nations,” said David Donnelly, a lawyer for Save Oro, a group protesting the festival and its environmental impacts.  Although there were vocal concerns by the group, as well as Huron-Wendat people, the festival continued, saying that the area was on a properly zoned area.

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