Deal "on paper" is what Tseshaht members want from BCTS

By Debora Steel, October 3, 2014

Boyd Fred has a fire burning in his heart to preserve what's left of the cedar in the territory as he works to encourage BCTS to deal fairly with the concerns of Tseshaht.

Photo by Debora Steel

Port Alberni — 

The Tseshaht grassroots members who are blocking the roads at the junction of Gracie Main and Sterling Main to prevent the removal of timber resources from Tseshaht unceded territory met this afternoon to discuss strategy for the upcoming week of protests.

Tseshaht has secured a Monday meeting with British Columbia Timber Sales. BCTS stands accused of allowing the removal of cedar from Nahmint Valley without the consent of Tseshaht, “sloughing off” an agreement to provide an inventory of the remaining cedar in the territory and developing a cedar management plan with the nation.

The group around the table today vowed to keep the pressure on BCTS, the Crown Corporation which authorizes companies to log specific territories, until an agreement “on paper” has been inked.

There is a level of mistrust that must be overcome, it seems. Tseshaht had understood that as of a September 2013 meeting with BCTS, after they raised concerns about the abundance of cedar in the territory and the resulting threat to their culture and identity, that the removal of cedar from the territory would immediately stop.

At that same meeting, BCTS agreed to provide a cedar inventory and develop the cedar management plan, and it is the group’s opinion that those things were to be done before more cedar was removed.

But BCTS sold three more licenses to log blocks of timber in that territory between September 2013 and January 2014 under pre-commitment operating terms, said Keith Hunter with First Nations Wildcrafters. And the commitment does not seem to have been applied to the three licenses sold just previous to the September 2013 meeting.

The group believes BCTS should be anxious to come to a resolution. Snowfall will mark the end of logging in the area, and the companies licenced to log those blocks will want to move as much timber as possible before then.

Ron Dick has surveyed the areas in question and they have been mostly cleared. He said at one site there is some three miles of logs roadside ready to load and remove.

Some members of the group expressed concern for the logging companies and their employees operating in the area, caught in the middle of the dispute, losing money and limited time to earn their livings. Tseshaht has stressed from the beginning that they have no issue with the loggers. Drivers who have come in contact with Tseshaht members have been understanding and respectful of the situation. Tseshaht is stopping only Industrial traffic at the junction.

BCTS, for its part, had notified the companies of the road closure and asked them to respect Tseshaht’s wishes to not enter the area. It may become difficult, however, because there is equipment left onsite that could be put to good use elsewhere, and now sits until the issue is resolved.

Public safety has been top of mind of everyone involved. Yesterday, Oct. 2, BCTS and the Tseshaht grassroots group worked together to ensure that a scheduled repair of a culvert in the area was allowed to continue. The repair crew did not come through the road closure, but the company negotiated access to ensure Tseshaht was aware, consented and negotiated the parameters of the work in the territory.

The road closure continued today with a 3 a.m. departure from Tseshaht Administrative Building where they met with media outlets. At the afternoon meeting they worked on ideas for communications, schedules for the site occupation, and recruitment.

They are hoping to have a big rally Sunday onsite with as many people as possible from Tseshaht, and invite Hupacasath members and any other interested party. Bring your drums, they said, and be able to sustain yourself (food, water, etc.).  Further details will be communicated.


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