After we are gone
By Reg C. Moody,
Guest Columnist, Archives 2000
As sure as we stand, the Heiltsuk Nation people are not going to get up one day and leave this territory. This is and always will be the only place on earth we call home.
Aboriginal rights have been recognized in the Canadian Constitution since 1982, without question. The Heiltsuk Nation claims rights and the title to 6,000 sq. km of lands and resources due to our occupation of the territory since time immemorial.
The Heiltsuk treaty office motto clearly states the Heiltsuk people's position. It says, "our rights, our resources, our lands are not for sale. They are there for our exclusive use. Our mission in this process is to protect, enhance, and, in fact, strengthen those rights."
The mandate of the Heiltsuk Nation is to not give up 90 to 95 per cent of our lands and resources.
Today, we are at a crossroads. While I sit and think about our current situation, I am reminded of the statements made by Heiltsuk Chief Bob Anderson in 1913 to the McKenna McBride Commission. He stated, "after we are gone, our children will carry on with this fight."
Bob Anderson was a man I admired very much for his concern for our people. Chief Anderson took a stand on the rights and title of the Heiltsuk Nation. I would like to know when this fight will begin?
So far it's being a one-man slaughter attack on people. The British Columbia Treaty Process has turned out to be the biggest joke in Canadian history. The governments have hi-jacked a process where they lend money to First Nations to negotiate away 90 to 95 per cent of their traditional lands and resources.
From the outset, it was my understanding that through this process we would be looking for ways in which we could have equal participation and a fair, equitable share in the wealth of this country, so that we would no longer rely on handouts.
If the Canadian and provincial governments do not wish to discuss compensation, and if British Columbia's five per cent land policy does not change, I don't see any point in the Heiltsuk or any other First Nation continuing in this process.
It is my view that if B.C. and Canada do not change their mandate to ensure some level of comfort for First Nations, this process will not survive in its present state and that this process is flawed and set up for failure.
If you ask other First Nations groups currently participating in this process if their nation has a mandate to negotiate away 90 to 95 per cent of their lands and resources, the answer would be a resounding no!
The recent offer that was made by Canada and British Columbia to the Sechelt is insulting to say the least. Dale Lovick's comments about the Sechelt offer gives us every indication that we (the Heiltsuk Nation) should abandon this process.
I can't understand why we continue to allow resource developers to chew up our inheritance by clear-cutting and depleting our marine resources while we are forced to live on our reserves with 70 to 80 per cent unemployment.
Today, many families in the community of Bella Bella are second and third generation dependents on permanent social assistance. If we don't get involved and act now, these numbers will continue to grow with each generation.
We need to drill it into the government's head that as long as the rivers flow and the sun shines, the Heiltsuk Nation and other First Nations will continue to demand that we be active participants in any decisions made about our lands and resources.
To address this combination of ignorance and disrespect by British Columbia and Canada we must bring our concerns to the international markets. We need to take our concerns to the buyers of B.C. wood products. They need to be reminded that they are buying B.C. wood illegally.
From the outset, my people were willing to look for ways to co-exist, to live together, to share resources with our neighbors. I for one am not about to take a back seat while the governments continue to show little or no respect for my people and continue to destroy our lands and resources at the expense of our way of life.
Enough is enough.