Common Sense Canadian

First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters

PostedSeptember 12, 2013 by in BC

Watch this video from Beyond Boarding – a group of adventure filmmakers who have been following Tahltan Nation opposition to a proposed open pit coal mine in their territory, referred to as the Sacred Headwaters.

The Common Sense Canadian has been reporting on the growing standoff between Tahltan members and Fortune Minerals, over the company’s mining exploration activities, some 400 km northeast of Prince Rupert.

At issue is Fortune’s plan to blow the top off of Mt. Klappan – a sacred place for Tahltans – for mining anthracite coal. On August 14, a group of elders and their supporters issued the company an eviction notice, ordering it to cease its exploratory drilling operations. They proceeded to set up a resistance camp near the proposed mine site.

An emergency meeting a few days later, with Fortune Minerals CEO Robin Goad, only appears to have inflamed the situation.

On September 10, a group of a dozen or so Tahltans occupied the vicinity of Fortune’s drill rig with a peaceful picnic.

The above video includes a fascinating interchange between Tahltan language scholar Oscar Dennis and the RCMP officers who flew into the Sacred Headwaters to ask the Tahltan to abandon the drill. Dennis challenges the RCMP’s assumptions and basis for confronting the traditional title holders to the land:

Who has the right? We have the right. Our land has never been treatied – it’s been occupied…We’re not protesting – we’re resisting the colonial situation and we get confronted, while the colonizers from Ontario could sit on that drill and destroy our land, and they get no confrontation.

At the video’s conclusion, the voice of an RCMP officer can be heard saying, “We’ll maybe we’ll join you picnic.” Replies Dennis, “Join in.”


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.


    Don Blumberg

    Great true statement – defining the reality that has so long been denied. The human species on the planet, in communion, caring for the planet and all planetary life, is a natural path of evolution.


    Hello all,

    To my Tahltans cousins ALERT….URANIUM (U308) it is well known and a study has been done by the B.C. Ministry of Mines and Energy that Coal here in B.C. has lots of Uranium! PLEASE NOTE that here in B.C. there is a URANIUM MINING BAN! and the levels of U308 in the Coal prohibits the mining of the Coal….

    Very best of health and wealth cousins…the truth shall set you free

    Greg Shafransky
    (Swampy Cree)


    Great video and interesting exchange. Can we send messages of support to these courageous and smart people, including Oscar Dennis? Thanks for covering this important issue, Louise

    Laurie Watt

    Great story, Damien. I spent the night of Sept 1st camping with the Tahltan protesters at Beauty Camp in this most beautiful place. In 2005 many of these protesters, including the wonderful great-grandmother “Tiger Lil” Campbell were arrested blockading the same Fortune Minerals, and will not give up this special hunting ground. We all watched a young grizzly bear wander through the valley near Mt. Klappan, in the same place I witnessed six caribou being chased by two wolves in 2011. The real culprit in all this is the provincial government, saying just a few months ago they will consider preservation of the Sacred Headwaters for all time, then fast-tracking Fortune Minerals’ exploration permit. Thankfully the Tahltan Nation has international law on its side and its most courageous elders, adults and youth ready to stop the government’s madness.

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