Keyoh holders are blockading the Leo Creek Forest Service Road over frustration with the management of the resources in their keyoh.
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, 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 as of the evening of Monday, Sept. 9. The group was not letting any logging, mining-related, gas pipeline or hunting traffic through into the area.
Alex Joseph said Tl’azt’en chief and council had been talking about doing a blockade but had not followed through on it.
“We just went ahead and did it,” he said. “So far it’s been pretty good.” He said so far the loggers, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the RCMP had all been respecting the blockade. “Which we appreciate.
Their 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, 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 Tl’azt’en Nation did not immediately respond to interview requests regarding the 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.”