A blockade of some forest service roads in Tl’azt’en Nation territory was down on Friday after a week of action by some keyoh-holders in the area.
A group of keyoh holders were blockading the Leo Creek Forest Service Road and temporarily the Tanizul Forest Service Road as well over their frustration with the management of the resources in their keyoh.
The group agreed to bring down the blockade pending further discussions with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Management and others.
Meetings have been set up for later this month.
Keyohs are areas of land managed by hereditary inheritance, a system of the Carrier peoples of the area predating contact with Europeans. An area is handed down through a family for food gathering through hunting, trapping, fishing and berry-picking.
“We don’t want industry to destroy what we have left,” said Charlie Joseph, one of the keyoh-holders of the Nesanye keyoh in the area.
“There’s too much hunting. Our way of life is being infringed on,” said Alex Joseph, another member of the keyoh-holder group and a resident of Middle River.
The roadblock, set up at the 2 km point on the Leo Creek Road, was being manned by a shifting group of about a dozen people through the week. The group was not letting any logging, mining-related, gas pipeline or hunting traffic through into the area. A blockade on the Tanizul FSR only lasted part of Thursday morning.
“We just went ahead and did it,” said Alex Joseph.
He said the loggers, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the RCMP had all been respecting the blockade. “Which we appreciate.”
The sign at the junction of the Tachie Road and the Leo Creek Forest Service Road had been defaced with derogatory comments, however. Someone had spray-painted “Hey, got two bucks” and another had spray-painted “No Indians.”
The blockaders’ demands were not specific, but Charlie Joseph said while compensation for some of the resource extraction and exploration has been going to chief and council, his group of keyoh-holders have not seen any benefits.
“Some sort of agreement must be made with us keyoh-holders,” he said. “If it’s monetary, let it be monetary. If it’s some sort of economic venture, we could start something along those lines.”
He suggested opportunities for those in the area to again own cattle and have access to forest range opportunities would be beneficial.
“I’m always saying to industry, if you take away from our resources, there has to be compensation.”
He said money or restocking of the resources and fixing the salmon spawning beds are all options.
“I remember as a kid going up the Tache River … you could look up the river and all you could see were the backs of salmon,” said Charlie Joseph, who blames logging-related siltation in the salmon beds for the depletion of the fishery in the area.
The group at the roadblock claimed they had the support of the Tl’azt’en chief and council, however a member of the Tl’azt’en Nation elected council said Tl’azt’en did not sanction the blockade.
Josh Hallman, chair of the Binche Separation Committee, also made the clarification Binche keyoh-holders were not involved in the blockade at all.
He said individual keyoh-hlders appeared to be representing themselves.
“I’m sure they do have legitimate concerns,” he said. “But they don’t have the mandates from all the keyoh holders to blockade.”
Other keyoh-holders from the region were also at the blockade in support of the action, and said they were considering blockading their keyoh areas to support what is being done at the Leo Creek Forest Service Road.
Terry West of the Northwest arm keyoh said he was going to sit down with his family and see about shutting down their area across Takla Lake.
The logging in his family’s keyoh goes towards Houston he said.
Another member of the blockade, Ted, who asked not to give his last name, said the defacement of the sign at the Leo Creel Forest Service Road and the Tachie Road was disrespectful of the keyoh-holders.
“Who does that,” he said. “We’ve had respect all these years.”
The blockade of the Leo Creek Road was impacting some logging and mining exploration work in the area, hunters were turned back, and the workers staying at the Leo Creek logging camp had to be redirected to the Stuart Lake Logging Camp.
MaryAnne Arcand of the Central Interior Logging Association (CILA) said the blockade was impacting logging contractors, and as many as seven contractors were losing an estimated combined total of $560,000 a day during the blockade.
CILA had gone to court on Friday to get an injunction against the protestors, which was granted the same day, but just after the blockade was taken down voluntarily.
“We’re happy the raodblock is down and we are fully expecting business as usual starting Monday,” she said. “It if does go back up next week we will be enforcing the injunction.”
She said they would apply to expand the injunction if roadblocks were put up on other area roads as well.
“The province is aware of the concerns of Dzit’lain’li Community Keyoh holders of Tl’azt’en Nation regarding resource activity in their traditional territory,” said Brennan Clarke, ministry spokesperson in an email statement. “These issues have been the subject of ongoing discussions over the summer between the Tl’azt’en chief and band council, the keyoh holders, the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.”
“The province’s efforts to engage the Tl’azt’en Nation in discussions and resolve concerns over resource extraction in their traditional territory are continuing,” said Clarke
Tl’azt’en Nation did not immediately respond to interview requests.