TSAXIS, Kwakiutl Territory (Port Hardy), Feb. 8, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, Kwakiutl commemorates the 163rd anniversary of its 1851 "Douglas" Treaty as the First Nation enters into its twelve day of protest against the Province of British Columbia, Canada and Forest Companies over the controversial clear-cutting of cedar trees on lands with exclusive Kwakiutl Aboriginal title, rights & interests, and Treaty rights.
"The people of Kwakiutl have been left with no choice but to protest and stop Canada and BC from allowing Companies to cut and remove cedar trees from our Land," said Chief Coreen Child of Kwakiutl First Nation.
Cedar is vital to the Kwakiutl people, contributing to every facet of life—from ceremony to sanctuary. "As our respected ones taught us, the trees are the 'standing people'. They have the same energy as a bear, a salmon, a mountain, or a human being. The trees in the forest are like family," said Tom Child, Lands Manager and Band Member of Kwakiutl First Nation.
At the centre of Kwakiutl's protest is an 1851 Treaty with the British Crown, which stipulated that lands and waters were to be set-aside for the exclusive use by Kwakiutl to maintain livelihood "as formerly" and for "generations to follow".
"Our people viewed the Treaty as vital to protecting land, water, and a way of life," said Chief Child. "But treaty implementation never happened. It was denied. And by way of denial, natural resource based industries sprang up around us and decimated our lands and waters," said Chief Child.
In June 2013, after a century and a half of Crown neglect, the BC Supreme Court found that BC and Canada had failed to implement and respect Kwakiutl "Douglas" Treaty and "challenged" both levels of government to begin honourable negotiations with the First Nation "without any further litigation, expense or delay." Kwakiutl considered this aspect of the judgment a victory because it put to rest, once and for all, the Provincial Crown's denial of Kwakiutl rights, title and interests.
As of this writing, BC has appealed the ruling and Canada has fallen silent. Both levels of government claim they do not have a mandate to implement Kwakiutl's 1851 Treaty.
Kwakiutl believes it has been left with little recourse but to protest, and views its actions as part of a larger struggle shared by First Nations across Canada.
"There is a resistance growing across Canada because the Crown continues with its shopworn practice of dispossession, and if it works, why change it. It's infringing, insulting and infuriating. Here, we live amidst the most resource rich Nation in the world and our people continue to be mired in a system of poverty and stigma that still dresses itself in assimilationist clothing," said Chief Child.
In the wake of anniversary and protest, Kwakiutl First Nation calls upon the federal and provincial Crown governments to cease their delay tactics, stop their denial of Aboriginal rights, title and interests, and acknowledge that the Treaty of 1851 exists and needs to be honoured and implemented.
"Our Treaty is alive and well," said Kwakiutl Councillor, Ross Hunt, Jr. "It stands as testament to Kwakiutl self-government and the principles of Kwakiutl law. Tonight, in heat of our protest fire and in the heart of Kwakiutl territory, our forests will ring with traditional games and songs. We invite BC and Canada to celebrate the honour with us."
SOURCE: Kwakiutl First Nation
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Chief Coreen Child