Saik’uz First Nation in British Columbia says forestry companies and the B.C. government must obtain consent before logging on their territory.
The First Nation located in northern B.C. is calling for immediate changes to forestry management to re-establish their connection to their traditional ways.
“Today, we are announcing these practices will no longer take place in our territory, we further announce that the Province of BC and Forest licensees must obtain our free and prior informed consent before proceeding with any forestry or other resource development in Saik’uz territory,” said Saik’uz Chief Priscilla Mueller at a news conference on Oct. 15.
They stated their old-growth forests have nearly been wiped out because of decades of logging.
The nation also released a 13-minute documentary titled Old Growth, New Beginnings where elders and community members illustrate that their traditional foods, plants and wildlife have been devastated.
Saik’uz traditional territory is located west of Prince George and is over a million hectares in size. They have an estimated 1,000 members living on and off reserve.
Their leadership says they are not against forestry, but want sustainability which includes no more clear-cutting.
In an interview with APTN News Saik’uz councillor Jasmine Thomas said they do have relationships with some companies, but others have ignored their concerns.
They have worked to express what is important to them the logging continued.
“Trying to establish a relationship where our concerns can be met and that are shared not only our community but should be shared by licensees and the province as well,” she said.
“We are trying to develop a process, and while we are talking about this process, business as usual is generally occurring out on the land base.”
Thomas said they couldn’t afford to wait anymore.
The Saik’uz wants to province to work with their nation to develop rehabilitation and restoration projects.
They also their nation and other Carrier Sekani Nations wants to be included in the resource management process.
“I need a land base to exercise my rights, as an Indigenous woman who has responsibility and direct relationship with the land. We can’t move forward on a path that might not exist in my daughter’s lifetime or even mine,” said Thomas.
The Ministry of Forest responded to APTN with an emailed statement that they are working with all Carrier Sekani First Nations on forestry.
“For the past 3 years, CSFN and the Province have attempted to work collaboratively with forest companies to resolve the cumulative effect issues through a voluntary deferral of important old growth, “ the statement read.
The ministry said it will now be working with the nations on a government-to-government relationship after collaboration with forestry companies did not work.
“The process with companies has not resulted in the change that the Province and CSFN are seeking; we are now working on a government-to-government basis to resolve the issue.”
They added that they plan to continue to modernize forestry in consultation with First Nations.
“In partnership with First Nations titleholders, this new approach will ensure the benefits of forestry are shared more widely and fairly with Indigenous people,” the statement read.
Saik’uz First Nation said its desire is to return to their traditional practices of culture and language and that they can’t make that journey without the forest to teach the next generation those ways.
Mueller said no more land use and forest management decisions without their consent.
“Starting today, things in our territory will be done our way, the right way. The best traditions of the past combined with the best forest resources management practices of today.”