My heart aches for the Pacheedaht

I must start out by reminding readers that I am neither first nation, nor a member of the Pacheedaht first nation. That being said, the recent chain of events has me wondering the mindset of the Pacheedaht who were outnumbered by the protesters blockading their lands in an attempt to stop a duly signed logging agreement from being acted upon.

The Pacheedaht, like every other first nation in BC have been under the thumb of the colonial system from the first arrival of their European masters several hundred years ago. Generations of indigenous folks have had to endure unspeakable things as the rulers took land, took children and tried to eradicate cultures and societies which have existed beyond memory.

To make a long story short, first nations in BC have won successive court cases and political battles that have allowed them to emerge again as nations’ within Canada.

This places us on the path we’re on today of reconciliation. That is to say; coming to terms with our horrible past and the terrible things we did to our first nations; a path forward. What that looks like for each and every first nation is complicated and presumably highly technical…but that’s a discussion for people smarter than me and elders of the various first nations.

Where the Pacheedaht’s role is here is that they’re well down the path to a modern treaty and an established business plan to get major improvements for their people.

As a nation that claims as its traditional territories on the pacific, several mountains and valleys, rivers and all the wildlife in between, the Pacheedaht know a thing or two about managing a forest…as they’ve done for thousands of years.

I suppose it was a natural leap for these folks to branch into a modern, professional local forest industry as a source of revenue and job creation for their people. Its worked well. Read this.

Now we arrive at the Fairy Creek event. The background comes from this deal. In short, the Pacheedaht signed a deal with Teal Jones (logging company) to log a tiny blip of trees above the Fairy Creek basin and outside the established protected area. 20 hectares of a total 1200 hectares of the valley…or 1.67%.

This was too much for the Rainforest Flying Squad who declared that they would set up blockades to stop any logging and road building to the affected area. The standoff began.

Teal Jones had a legal right to build a road, access the trees, cut and remove and pay the Pacheedaht a handsome sum of cash for that right. The court said so, the Pacheedaht said so. So the blockade was declared illegal and police moved in to start removing protesters by arresting them.

To their credit, despite an illegal blockade, the protesters political cause is easier to defend than logging in old growth areas. But what was missing from the discussion was the fact that the Pacheedaht leadership signed a deal to log trees from land they control and some environmentalists were trying to stop them. The protesters were determined to make this a political matter to directly attack the NDP government – who was trying to let the Pacheedaht remain as the deciders in this matter – as the new UNDRIP legislation intends.

I try to imagine myself in others shoes in a conflict. How would I feel?

I imagine that the Pacheedaht are probably feeling under siege right now. Their voices are being completely ignored by the protesters. The Pacheedaht leadership signed a perfectly legal agreement to land some provincial cash (a share of the stumpage fees collected) and the deal through the Teal Jones contract. They were perfectly asserting their rights to make substantial decisions on the fate of their territory and they’ve been undermined and ignored.

So they caved. They have been successfully bullied out of their land for the next couple of years through this deferral they sought out. To think that a group of self identified left-wing activists sidelined the wishes of an area first nation and ignore them completely is outrageous.

So this deferral is enough to have the protesters back down and leave Pacheedaht territory?

Nope.

Having ‘won’, the protesters have moved the goalposts. They want more.

Haven’t the Pacheedaht seen this movie before? Outside Influences showing up to their lands dictating what they can or cannot do with their lands and territory? I thought reconciliation and UNDRIP were supposed to move past that.

This is Pacheedaht territory and they have a right to self determination and the right to act in the best interests of their people.

Leave them alone.

My2bits

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