More than 20 years ago the world witnessed the power of solidarity between Nuu-chah-nulth and First Nations throughout BC that saved Meares Island from logging. We all witnessed the power of what Nuu-chah-nulth people are capable of when they unite for a cause.
Nuu-chah-nulth are gathering again to show their unity and support for the start of the Nuu-chah-nulth Fisheries Litigation trial. On April 24th the trial will begin at the Law Courts in Vancouver. Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih and leaders are asking all Nuu-chah-nulth, other First Nations, and all supporters to bring their drums and voices to demonstrate support for the Nuu-chah-nulth Fisheries Litigation. “The Ha’wiih encourage that we build the strongest possible support, because we are only going to get one chance at this … it is for the future of our children and our grandchildren” proclaimed Cliff Atleo Sr. at the recent NTC meeting.
All supporters are invited to gather at 8:30 AM on April 24th at the Vancouver Law Courts. It is an opportunity to show your support for Nuu-chah-nulth dedication to rebuilding our communities and Nuu-chah-nulth economies to the level that were historically.
So why are Nuu-chah-nulth putting so much effort, time and energy into the litigation? Why is this case so important to Nuu-chah-nulth people?
“Nuu-chah-nulth have survived on sea resources from time immemorial. Our sea resources are central to our culture, tradition and who we are as Nuu-chah-nulth.” said NTC Vice President Michelle Corfield. “This case is about having our right to the commercial sale of sea resources recognized. It will be the first time in history that Nuu-chah-nulth have stood up to Canada and the world to express our sovereign rights. It is an expression of our rights. At the end of the day this is our land and that’s what we are here to prove.”
Over 10 years of treaty negotiations have produced insufficient results for Nuu-chah-nulth access to sea resources. In 1998 direction was given by the Ha’wiih and Nuu-chah-nulth leadership to begin the research and preparation to support Nuu-chah-nulth Title and Rights that contribute to making a living from our fisheries resources.
“In 2001 12 NCN nations were made an offer under AIP treaty process for 3.5
Sockeye per Nuu-chah-nulth person,” states Corfield. “The average Nuu-chah-nulth young male can eat one to two pounds of fish per day. On that basis alone Nuu-chah-nulth understood the need to litigate their concerns over sea resources.”
Nuu-chah-nulth are embarking on this landmark case to protect the Constitutional rights of all First Nations, and apply pressure on Canada and B.C. as they continue to limit First Nations food and ceremonial needs to increasingly low levels of harvest and consumption.
Cliff Atleo Sr. addressed the recent NTC meeting in regard to the litigation, stating that it is “the biggest court challenge ever against the government of Canada by our people.” He continued “It’s not right that everybody else has taken literally millions of dollars’ worth of seafood out of your territory… and us getting next to nothing. That’s why we are before the courts. That’s why we are going to take them on…. We are engaging in a major way.”
The Nuu-chah-nulth Fisheries Litigation Writ of Summons was filed on June 19, 2003, and declares continuous Nuu-chah-nulth ownership, use and occupation of lands, freshwater and ocean territories; Aboriginal Title to Nuu-chah-nulth fishing territories and sites; Aboriginal Rights to all species of fisheries resources in Nuu-chah-nulth territories, including harvesting, management, consumption, processing and trading, and the accumulation of wealth from these activities.
Eleven Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations are participating in the joint fisheries litigation: Ahousaht, Ehattesaht, Hesquiaht, Hupacasath, Huu-ay-aht, Ka’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Nuchatlaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Tseshaht, and Ucluelet.
Through the Fisheries Litigation and other means, Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations will again be able to make a living from their fisheries resources, as they always have, and as was committed to by Canada and B.C. when Nuu-chah-nulth were forced onto small reservations. “You know what’s going to drive us faster to a strong healing society? Our access to the sea.” said Atleo.
Submitted by Uu-a-thluk Outreach Coordinators Kelly Poirier and Dawn Foxcroft