By Roy L Hales
Local First Nations set up Rocky Mountain Fort Camp before Christmas. There were six to eight members of the newly formed Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land sleeping there last night. Spokesperson Art Napoleon said First Nations originally talked about taking a stand near the site of the proposed Site C Dam, but B.C. Hydro’s work crews moved too fast. The once pristine forest that stood there has been destroyed. So First Nations decided to block this most recent perceived violation of Treaty 8 by setting up Rocky Mountain Fort Camp. BC Hydro employees have already scouted the camp. They could be preparing to seek an injunction, but this will not make the First Nations move. Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land are prepared to be arrested.
Someone Has To Make A Stand
“Someone has to make a stand and since we are stewards of the land, we are the ones doing it – along with our allies who live along the banks of the river that is going to be flooded,” said Napoleon.
Treaty 8 gave local First Nations the right to hunt, fish, trap, harvest traditional medicines and continue their spiritual practices in the Peace River area.
If the Site C Dam is built, it will flood 107-kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, including the traditional hunting and fishing grounds of Treaty 8 First Nations.
“There is already all kinds of mining, oil and gas, LNG, two other dams that have already been built; no compensation; no consultation on the first two (dams). Now that the courts have made consultation a requirement, especially since we have treaty rights, but that has not been the case,” said Napoleon
He added, “We don’t think Premier Christy Clark gives a s___ about treaty rights. I don’t even know if she has the ability to define them. She doesn’t take them seriously at all.”
“The RCMP would never go out there and arrest someone for violation of a treaty right. We live in a racist society, that’s just how it is.”
Appealing To Trudeau
In a press release, issued yesterday, the Stewards of the Land called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene.
“The Prime Minister says that Canada’s most important relationship is with its Indigenous Peoples and that he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights”, said Helen Knott, “This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level. I speak as Great Great Granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last to sign Treaty 8 in 1911, and I am trying to honour my Grandfather’s original intent and uphold those rights he meant to protect. I ask Prime Minister Trudeau to also honour that original intent.”
Treaty 8 Court Cases
“We applaud the court cases being brought by West Moberly, Prophet River and others, but they take time to wind their way through the courts. Meanwhile, before the court cases are even heard, BC Hydro is destroying the very valley that these court cases are intended to protect.”
Napoleon says there is no guarantee the court cases, which are really appeals of the decision to grant Site C environmental approval, will succeed.
He believes there is no need for B.C. Hydro to log this year. They have proceeded despite the court cases and public outcry in an attempt to railroad this project.
“What they are trying to do is push their way in, show what they have done so there will be no backing out,” he said.
Treaty 8 Stewards Of The Land Are Prepared To Be Arrested
So the group now calling themselves Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land has set up at Rocky Mountain Fort Camp, to deny BC Hydro further access to the land. Though they are across the river from Fort St John, this is a remote location half a mile from the nearest road. People come on a rotating basis. There have been as many as 10, and as few are five. They know the courts could issue an injunction in favour of B.C. Hydro. If that happens, Treaty 8 Stewards Of The Land Are Prepared To Be Arrested.