The leaders of three First Nations on southwestern Vancouver Island say they’ve told the B.C. government they want old-growth logging temporarily deferred in two areas – Fairy Creek watershed area and central Walbran area near Port Renfrew.
The formal notice was submitted to the B.C. government on Saturday, June 5 and is intended to give the three nations time to prepare a forest stewardship plan. It was delivered one day after the three signed a declaration to take back their power over their traditional territories.
“We have made a commitment to our people to manage the resources on our h?ahahuu?i the way our ancestors did – guided by our sacred principles of ?iisaak (utmost respect), ?uu?a?uk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c?awak (everything is one),” explained Huu-ay-aht Tayii H?aw?i? ?iis?in (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters), Ditidaht Chabut Satiixub (Hereditary Chief Paul Tate), and Pacheedaht’s Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones. “We are in a place of reconciliation now and relationships have evolved to include First Nations. It is time for us to learn from the mistakes that have been made and take back our authority over our h?ahahuu?i.”
The declaration states that in accordance with the traditional laws and constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title, Aboriginal Rights, and Treaty Rights, the governance and stewardship responsibilities in the traditional territories of the three nations must be acknowledged and respected.
It also outlines that third parties – which include companies, organizations, other governments, or individuals – have no right to speak on behalf of the nations.
“Our three nations look forward to building a future based on respectful nation-to-nation relationships with other governments that are informed by Indigenous history, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous rights, and Indigenous priorities,” said Chief Councillor of the Pacheedaht First Nation Jeff Jones. “We ask that all peoples both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learn and move forward together and that by working together we can realize a future that is fair, just, and equitable.”
Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht have indicated that they will be developing and implementing a resource management plan, suggesting that there will be opportunities for input as long as it takes place through the process outlined by the nations.
“It is our responsibility to take care of our land for future generations – we are the decision-makers,” explained Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “We follow the guidance of our elders and citizens to make the decisions we think are right – we are asking others to respect that process and follow our direction on our territory. Our citizens have a constitutionally protected right to manage and benefit from our lands, waters, and resources.”
While the resource management plan is being developed, the three nations are asking that individuals allow forestry operations in other parts of their Territories, approved by the nations and the province, to continue without disruption.
In a letter written by the trio, it also states that anyone who requests permission to enter their traditional territories is welcome provided they conduct themselves in a manner that does not interfere with legally authorized forestry operations.
Teal-Jones, company logging at Fairy Creek, responds to today’s FNs statement: "We will abide by the declaration issued today, and look forward to engaging with the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations as they develop Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plans."
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) June 7, 2021
Following the news of the deferral notice, Teal-Jones — the company logging in Fairy Creek — told CHEK News that it intends to abide by the declaration and said they “look forward to engaging with the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations as they develop Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plans.”
The B.C. government also issued a statement on the matter on Monday morning.
“My government has received the Hišuk ma c?awak Declaration and deferral request issued earlier today by the Chiefs of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“These nations are the holders of constitutionally protected Indigenous interests within their traditional territories. It is from this position that the Chiefs have approached us. We further recognize the three nations will continue to exercise their constitutionally protected Indigenous interests over the protected areas.”
For now, protesters from the Rainforest Flying Squad are encouraged but vowed to stand their ground until they see maps of what is being deferred, and they won’t leave unless it’s the entire Fairy Creek rainforest.
“No, we must not stand down, as all First Nations are locked into unfair contracts that tie their hands,” Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones said in a news release.
They want the deferral to include all 2,080 hectares of the rainforest and not just old-growth within the watershed, as well as a deferral on logging across the entire special management zone in the Central Walbran Valley.
With files from The Canadian Press