ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, B.C. — After the arrest of three others during protests against Site C, First Nations members say they aren’t afraid of facing arrest to protest their traditional territory — and will continue to camp out at the Rocky Mountain Fort.
Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land say they will not permit BC Hydro to proceed with plans to clear-cut forests around the site on the west side of the Moberly River.
The site was the first trading post in mainland B.C., and sits on traditional territory belonging to Treaty 8 First Nations.
“Logging and flooding this part of the Peace Valley will irreversibly harm our ability to hunt, fish, trap and exercise other constitutionally-protected Treaty Rights, especially since much of the rest of Treaty 8 Territory has been devastated by other hydro-electric, oil and gas and industrial developments,” said Art Napoleon of the Saulteau First Nation.
“To have any meaning, these treaty rights require a land base and waterways where there are wildlife and fish, and which is capable of supporting a diversity of plant life. Treaty rights also include management level decision-making to protect moose calving grounds, medicine harvesting and berry picking, and spiritual practices – all of which will be obliterated by Site C.”
First Nations chiefs told key members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet last month that suspending federal approval of the Site C dam is ‘a critical litmus test’ for his promise to mend the relationship between the Federal Government and First Nations people.
Helen Knott with the Prophet River First Nation says, according to the Prime Minister, Canada’s ‘most important relationship’ is with its Indigenous Peoples, and that ‘he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights.’
“This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level,” she explained. “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.”
I'm not a "protester" as media would like to define it. I am a treaty 8 member and I am actively using my right to be on the land. I am a visible reminder of those rights here. We are the land. I am the great great granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot who was the last to sign treaty 8 in 1911, he wanted to ensure that what was said was followed. I am of his blood, of the original intent of his signing for what were a proud and fierce people, the tribe that they were waiting to die off so they wouldn't have to sign. We are still here. The land is sacred. #keepthepeace #rockymountainfort #backatcamp #fortheloveofland
Knott says they applaud the court cases being brought by West Moberly, Prophet River and others, but they take time to wind their way through the courts.
“As individual Treaty 8 First Nation members, we cannot stand by. Do I want to be arrested? No, I am here peacefully doing what I believe is right and needed but this land is a part of who I am and I will take a stand for it. Prime Minister Trudeau can stop BC Hydro from destroying the Peace Valley. Until he does, we will.”
BC Hydro has built a bridge across the mouth of the Moberly River in preparation for logging int he proposed reservoir area.
Should construction proceed as planned, the $8.8 billion Site C dam would flood 107-kilometres of the Peace River, including the traditional hunting and fishing grounds of Treaty 8 First Nations.
On New Years Eve, BC Hydro posted eviction notices, requesting protesters be gone in 24 hours. Hydro’s David Conway said, in an e-mailed statement, that protesters have the right to peacefully express their views and opinions on Site C in a ‘safe and lawful manner.’
“We are hopeful this can be resolved. We are in discussions with the protestors and local authorities to allow us to resume construction activities. BC Hydro is evaluating all options and will continue to monitor the situation.”