Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

February 21, 2005 12:43 ET

Wasi'las Heritage Camp Study

Wasi'las is a sacred place to the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk as it pertains to Our Origin Story, "Awaga'wis". Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Photo Editor KINGCOME INLET, BC--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 21, 2005) - Wasi'las is a sacred place to the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk (four Tribes) as it pertains to Our Origin Story, "Awaga'wis".
Wasi'las was a place where the herring spawned and our people harvested Cedar, Hunted and lived in Harmony with the Land.

The TFN (Tsawataineuk First Nation) Camp Study at Wasi'las (Holden Creek) in Kincome Inlet was put in place on February 14, 2005, by the authority of the TFN Chief & Council. The heritage camp will be kept in place to provide recommendations to the Tsawataineuk Council on heritage policies and moratoriums. The Camp Study will also do an independent archeological survey and a broad range of traditional studies for protection of our heritage, Title and Rights. The TFN will no longer rely on Archeological surveys conducted on behalf of industry for their benefit or the studies and monitoring of its resources.

The people of the TFN in decades of frustration are compelled to protect Wasi'las a Sacred Watershed of old growth Cedar near the Broughton Archipelago, and compelled to take control of our land and resources to enhance our way of life.

The black decades of adhering to foreign policy and ridiculous funding formulas of INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), FNIHB (First Nation Inuit Health Branch), AFS have caused much of the frustration to First Nation people who are the poorest in our own lands.

Our Council which is under young new leadership that also includes a Hereditary Chief, will not be entering the BC Treaty process or accepting the proposed Forest and Range agreement, as they are not acceptable to the citizens of the TFN and have been rejected by other First Nations. The action that we feel is necessary is to assert our authority and jurisdiction, as Colonial foreign policy and reform appears to revolve from which ever Political Party is in power.

In recent discussions with the BC Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management (MSRM), regarding the CCLRMP (Land Use Plans) we did not put our draft Land Use Plan on the table, nor did we agree to any provincial plans. We were willing to negotiate the terms of protection of Wasi'las in government-to-government discussions that recognizes TFN pre-existing sovereignty, and authority of our Nation with respect to land and resource decisions.

We must note that the Province proposed to protect Wasi'las but would not negotiate with us while a "blockade" is in place. We also note in the same memo they would only protect it after it was logged.

In previous discussions they (MSRM) said that they could protect Wasi'las in about six weeks. Due to the recent findings of our Archeologist, we could not wait six weeks, six days or six hours and allow our old village sites, artifacts, to be desecrated. Wasi'las is now protected under our authority which is not inferior to any government, and our Heritage will be protected throughout our territory through better policies developed by our people then current policy and practice. We cannot participate in any process that will not respect protection of our Heritage.

The TFN are not in the BC Treaty process, as we firmly believe the process at this time is inherently flawed, as it does not truly recognize Aboriginal Title. The process is also based on outdated federal policies that do not reflect current case law such as The Minister of Forests, et al. v. Council of the Haida Nation (2004) or Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997).

We have not signed a Forest and Range agreement, as we feel the proposed template-based agreement would continue to allow future infringements under current policy for the very little accommodation.

Our Musgamagw Nations previously served an eviction notice to the Province of British Columbia and industry that as of December 31, 2004 all open-net fish farms in our territories must be removed. We will enforce the eviction notice by further demonstrations of assertion if a moratorium is not in place immediately and a firm commitment to remove fish farms on the Coast.

This eviction notice is supported by recommendations of the 2001 Leggatt inquiry which the first recommendation was to remove open net cages by January 1, 2005. We also note, that most if not all of the recommendations have not been implemented by the Liberal Government of BC nor have they been supported by DFO.

We have been directed by our Musgamagw members that consultation to infringe is not an option. The Survival of Musgamagw people has always come from the relationship to Our Land and our Spiritual attachment will not be defined nor mismanaged by other governments, or third parties.

Our Aboriginal Title and Rights cannot be subordinated to the property-rights of third parties who have reaped the benefits from our territories with above noted foreign policy and funding arrangements and restrictions to the use of Indian Land.

Our community has been deprived of a safety access road to our Village as we live three miles up Gwa-Yee (Kingcome River) which river boat is the only way to our Village from the mouth of Kingcome Inlet.

As the Nature Trust (TNT) own several pieces of land in our territory we have asked them to grant us a right of way through "their property', to get our children, elders, materials and supplies to and from the mouth of the Gwa-Yee (Kingcome River).

We recently requested the Board of The Nature Trust(TNT) that if they changed their position to grant us a right of way that a relationship could be reconciled to work on a management plans with them in numerous areas of mutual concern.

It appears that they were confident, or assumed that the Province would/could legislate through the LRMP, more protected area adjacent to their lots in our territory to increase "their estuary".

They assumed wrong. Any Land Use Plan contrary to our Vision and Draft Land Use Plan will never create the certainty for a "Golden Decade".

We feel the Province must support our decisions for the safety our people and could easily accommodate our request by expropriating a small portion of land to which the Nature Trust "owns" but is ironically managed by the Province, in a ninety nine year lease agreement with the Nature Trust. In this agreement the Nature Trust does not pay tax and I'm curious what other arrangements are in place. I'm sure that if there were Gold at the end of our road that they would claim it, consult and then expropriate through our "Reservation".

The only certainty in our territories is that there will be no 'golden decade' for the Tsawataineuk First Nation under current policies of the "asserted title" of Federal and Provincial Government.

I will be willing to negotiate in collaboration all First Nations with the Federal and Provincial Governments if they are willing to negotiate immediate Political reform of Indian abuse.

It is time for First Nations to unite like never before, draw a line, demand change now, be ready to fight and proudly say this is who we are, this is where we come from, and these are our lands and resources which we will protect and preserve, with our traditions for thousands of more years. IN: ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY, RELIGION

Contact Information

  • Eric Joseph, Chief, Musgamagw Tsawataineuk
    Primary Phone: 250-974-3013
    Secondary Phone: 250-974-4224
    E-mail: ericjoe@kingcome.net