Tag Archives: Taseko

Rocky Year for Taseko Mines


Read this story from Mining.com on embattled Prosperity Mine proponent Taseko Mines and the challenges they’ve faced with two major projects over the past year. (Dec. 12, 2012)

Canadian Taseko Mines (TSE:TKO) is having a rocky end of the year as workers threaten to strike at the company’s copper-molybdenum Gibraltar mine, in British Columbia.  Were that not enough First Nation representatives are calling the company to “stop wasting everyone’s time” and withdraw the controversial New Prosperity mine project proposal.

The miner said it has received a 72-hour strike notice by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union, which represent workers at Gibraltar.

On Monday, an independent panel reviewing the gold-copper New Prosperity project told Taseko that major deficiencies with the proposal must be addressed before the group can consider proceeding to public hearings.

In an e-mailed declaration, Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair, Chief Joe Alphonse, remarked this is not the first time the miner received a letter from the authorities outlining deficiencies in the company’s environmental impact statement (EIS).

Alphonse added that Taseko has spent years and over $100 million on this project, “despite being advised of serious concerns with the project in 1995 by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Governments and the Tsilhqot’in Nation, among other First Nations.”

The proposed open-pit mine, to be located approximately 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, has raised the ire of environmentalists and First Nations groups for the proposed destruction of a lake to be used as a tailings impoundment.

The original $1.1 billion proposal was rejected in 2010 by the federal government due to the company’s plan to drain Fish Lake for the storage of non-acid generating rock.

In the spring of 2011, Taseko came back with a new proposal that would save Fish Lake, but the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) criticized the plan as, from an environmental perspective, worse than the original one.

In response, the Vancouver-based firm filed suit against WCWC and its outreach director, Sven Biggs, for defamation regarding the project.

Read original post: http://www.mining.com/taseko-mines-weathers-multiple-storms-60159/


Taseko Mines Suing Wilderness Committee for Defamation Over Fish Lake


Read this story from the Canadian Press on Taseko Mines’ decision to sue the Wilderness Committee and one of its campaigners for defamation regarding the environmental organization’s criticisms of the company’s proposed mine west of Williams Lake. (March 1, 2012)

VANCOUVER – The company behind a controversial mining proposal in British Columbia has filed a lawsuit against one of its critics, alleging an environmental group has made inaccurate and defamatory comments that threaten to mislead the public.

Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO.TONews) filed a notice of claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday targeting the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and one of its employees over statements the environmental group has made about the company’s New Prosperity gold and copper project.

The project has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists and local First Nations communities and was rejected by a federal government environmental review in 2010…

…”Taseko welcomes a full, thorough and open process to evaluate the merits of the New Prosperity project,” Russell Hallbauer, CEO of Taseko, said in a news release issued Thursday.

“We cannot, however, stand idly by when certain parties such as the Western Canada Wilderness Committee mislead the public.”

Joe Foy, national campaign director for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, dismissed the legal action as a “slap lawsuit” designed to silence criticism.

Foy said his group plans to defend itself against the lawsuit, and he suggested the company’s notice of claim doesn’t accurately reflect what’s currently on the Wilderness Committee’s website.

Foy noted the Wilderness Committee made changes in recent weeks after complaints from the company. For example, the web page quoted in the notice of claim no longer refers to Fish Lake as a “tailings pond.”

“We called Taseko mines and told them we did not think anything we said was actionable, that we were willing to look at the thing that we had up on our website and make some changes, which we did,” Foy said in an interview.

“We feel we behaved reasonable in this, but we do not agree that we’re guilty of libel so we’ll defend ourselves in court.”

Read full article: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/b-c-mining-company-sues-024146812.html


Taseko Mines Ready to Begin Work on Prosperity Mine


Read this story from the Winnipeg Free Press on Taseko Mines’ plans to begin work on its proposed Prosperity Mine in Tsilhqot’in First Nations territory west of Williams Lake, as an injunction prohibiting work has been lifted. (March 6, 2012)

VANCOUVER – Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO) says it will begin exploration work at the New Prosperity site in B.C.’s central interior after a court overturned an injunction brought by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

Taseko said Tuesday that the injunction, granted in December, was vacated by court order.

The mining company said it plans to begin preliminary work on Tuesday to obtain information it needs in advance of a federal environmental assessment.

The company has 12 months to complete the necessary work at the site needed for a second federal government environmental process, but has said the band refused to allow workers on the land.

The First Nation wanted the court to keep the mining firm out of its territory, preventing it from doing any work until the B.C. Appeal Court rules on the band’s case involving aboriginal title in certain claim areas.

Tsilhqot’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste has said the B.C. government simply rubber stamped Taseko’s permits and licences for the mine, without consulting with them as required.

The mine has a controversial history. The proposal for the $1.1-billion mine was approved by the B.C. government, but was rejected in a federal government environmental review in 2010.

Read more: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/taseko-to-begin-work-at-new-prosperity-after-injunction-overturned-140558643.html


Federal Hearings Into Revised Prosperity Mine Poroposal Begin


Read this story from CTV.ca on a new round of federal environmental hearings into the proposed Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake. (Jan. 29, 2012)

With all eyes on hearings for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline that would link Alberta’s oil sands to tankers on the B.C. coast, a federal environmental review of another contentious B.C. project is quietly getting underway.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has released guidelines and terms of reference that will form the framework for an environmental review of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s (TSX:TKO) proposed Prosperity gold and copper mine in the B.C. Interior.

The agency is seeking comments on the documents until Feb. 22.

But the approach of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government toward the federal hearings on the Northern Gateway doesn’t give First Nations opponents much faith in the environmental review of the mine.

“We feel the writing’s on the wall,” Chief Joe Alphonse, leader of the Tsilqhot’in National Government, said in an interview.

“Mr. Harper is making statements around the Enbridge project that anyone opposing the project is an enemy of Canada. That’s the same situation.”

Read more: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120129/bc_prosperity_mine_project_120128/20120129/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome


Rafe Reflects on Common Sense Canadian – And Why 2012 is Make-or-Break Year for BC


It’s customary at this time of the year too look back, comment, and look to the New Year. Why should The Common Sense Canadian (CSC) be any different?
We’ve been going for about a year and a half so my comments may take us a little earlier than last January but let me start by saying that both Damien Gillis and I are pretty proud of our progress.
Neither of us believes in some commonwealth of environmental people and groups. That’s not practical as we all have issues we feel more strongly about than others. We do, however, like to feel that we can bring a vehicle into being that helps all environmentalists and groups find a place to air their feelings. As one would expect, the particular passions of Damien and me will stand out in the work we do but we also support many other groups. Because of the history we bring to the CSC, we tend to look most in four areas, in no particular order: fish farms, private power, pipelines and oil tankers – the latter two being bound together but still two separate issues; but you can’t have one without the other.
What we’ve seen happen in the past year or so is a sense of all environmentalists feeling part of the same general battle – and battle it is.
Let me expand on that last thought a bit. All of us, whether trying to save forests, or a river, or a coastline or whatever are met with the cry “aren’t they in favour of anything?” If they’re not hugging trees they’re against jobs for the young and prosperity for communities. These and similar questions have been raised since the first day someone declared that there were other issues than just monetary ones. To show you how ridiculous this gets, supporters of the proposed “Prosperity” Mine allege that this mine will give employment to 71,000 people! Why not 710,000 if you’re going to be ridiculous?
What we try to do is challenge people to make a value judgment on what is done and place the environmental issues securely on the table. The main reason we do that is that damage to the environment is permanent while the economics diminish as time goes by, leaving only the scars.
Let’s look at a so-called “run-of-river” project. We’re told that these are necessary to create jobs yet when the deed is done there are only a bare handful of caretakers left behind while the river, and the ecology that depend upon it, are permanently and seriously impaired.
Now we are democrats. If the public, fully informed, wish to create permanent environmental damage, that is their right. What happens, however, is that the public, if they are informed at all, only see the glitzy ads by the company and the smooth assurances of the politicians.
Public hearings are, frankly, bullshit. The decision has been made and, like a trial in the old Soviet Union, a “show” trial must take place.
Let me give you a recent example: when President Obama refused to authorize the Keystone XL project which would take “gunk” from the Tar Sands to  Texas, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty instantly responded and said that we would have to put the proposed Enbridge pipeline from the Tar Sands to Kitimat, BC, on “the front burner”! Before the National Energy Board hearings even get off the ground the Finance Minister is assuming the result! Yet, he’s right to do so because the “fix” is well and truly in.
This takes me to the meat of the matter for, in the past couple of years there has been an astonishing cooperation of environmental organizations to fight these things together.
I’ve been all around the province making speeches and often the stage has been shared with COPE union spokespersons, the Wilderness Committee, Alexandra Morton and her Raincoast Research Society, the redoubtable Donna Passmore and her work on highways and farmland issues, CoalWatch Comox Valley regarding the proposed Raven coal mine, citizen groups fighting local issues like overhead transmission lines and numerous grassroots organizations in the Kootenays in Northern BC, on the Sunshine Coast – and the list goes on.
Of enormous consequence has been the work all the different environmental groups have done with First Nations on the issues I have mentioned. One of the most touching moments in my Roast of November 24 last were the speeches given by Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Chief Bob Chamberlin and Chief Marilyn Baptiste; and I tell you truly that I wept when they spoke and sang and considered how far down the road to true understanding of their concerns I had come – something, I might add, Chief Philip commented upon with a twinkle in his eye to match my tears.
Let me pause here to note that I have left out many people and organizations that have every right to stand out in front as those I have mentioned and I deeply hope that I haven’t offended any of them.
Let me speak out clearly on political matters. The Campbell/Clark government are enemies of the public at large. The destruction they have caused, and which will happen because of their policies, beggars description. Not unnaturally, the NDP have been the beneficiaries, often accidentally, from this public disgust with the government. I can tell you that at my “Roast” were people I knew from my old Socred days – people who a year ago would have preferred to be found in a house of ill repute than be seen with the CSC helping us in our fundraiser.
I must say this: the NDP gets no easy ride from us. It’s simple to jump on a bandwagon but we demand commitments from them – not airy, fairy crap that passes for commitment in political jargon.
I’m going to end now with this look ahead. 2012 will be the year that decides where we go in BC.
Will we have more rivers destroyed for private profit? Will we see our province, my homeland and yours, turned over to the 100% certain destruction by pipelines? And to the 100% certainty of catastrophic oil spills on our coast and in Burrard Inlet? Will we continue to allow fish farmers to annihilate our sacred Pacific Salmon? Will we watch idly as Fish Lake is destroyed to set the precedent of more of the same?
Will we do nothing as we lose more and more farmland? Will money promised and jobs pledged suck the wind out of our ability to see what’s really happening to us, our children, our grandchildren and for some of us great-grandchildren?
That is the advantage, you see, of old age – right before your eyes are the people we hold BC in trust for. The wisdom of the ages, in the soul of our First Nations, is the wisdom we must listen to and apply if we want to save our province from those who would convert it into cash for private use, leaving us with nothing but the scars to remind us what damned fools we’ve been.
The Common Sense Canadian will be in this fight in 2012 and in the years to come and, along with those we march alongside, do not intend to lose the battles nor the war.


BREAKING: Judge sides with Tsilhqot’in – Issues Injunction Against Taseko Mines!


Read this breaking story from CTV News on BC Supreme Court Justice Christopher Grauer’s decision earlier today to grant the Tsilhqot’in First Nations an injunction to prevent Taseko Mines from carrying out any more preliminary construction work on its controversial proposed Prosperity Mine.

“An aboriginal band has been granted an injunction preventing
Taseko Mines from conducting exploration work around its proposed gold
and copper mine in B.C.’s central Interior. In the same court hearing, Taseko failed in its bid for an
injunction forcing the Tsilhqot’in First Nation to stop blocking the
company’s access to the site outside Williams Lake, B.C.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Grauer ruled Friday the
band wasn’t properly consulted on two permits granted to Taseko by the
provincial government. Grauer said the First Nation will suffer greater harm than Taseko
if the exploration and trail building work for the proposed New
Prosperity mine continues.” (Dec 2, 2011)

Read article: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111202/bc_first_nation_injunction_taseko_mine_111202/20111202/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome


First Nations Stand Their Ground Against Prosperity Mine at BC Supreme Court


The Tsilhqot’in First Nations and their supporters have been at the BC Supreme Court this week, fighting for an injunction to keep Taseko Mines from commencing work on the controversial proposed Prosperity Mine – amid Tsilhqot’in traditional territory, southwest of Williams Lake. While the Harper Government recently agreed to examine a new version of the mine it already rejected last year, the BC Government has pushed ahead, granting the company permits to begin work. The result is an accelerating stand-off between First Nations, Taseko and the Clark Government – highlighted at this rally outside the courthouse on Monday.


Mounting Legal Clash Over Prosperity Mine


Read this story from The Globe and Mail on the debate between First Nations and Taseko Mines, now playing out in the BC courts.

“The battle between the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Taseko Mines Ltd. has
heated up after allegations that three members of the first nations
community obstructed workers attempting to access the Prosperity mine
site in northern B.C.

‘As a result of this interference, we,
today, have initiated legal proceedings against these individuals and
we’ll be seeking an order restraining them from unlawfully interfering
with the company’s lawfully approved work,’ said Brian Battison, the
company’s corporate affairs vice president. Taseko has received
government approval to conduct exploratory work.” (Nov. 14, 2011)

Read article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-politics/legal-clash-builds-between-taseko-first-nations-over-prosperity-mine/article2236184/?from=sec431


From Gustafsen Lake to Fish Lake: No Place for Violent Stand-Offs in Era of Youtube and Facebook


Picture this: It’s 2012 and you live half way around the world – let’s say, Sydney, Australia. You open up your Facebook page to find a new viral youtube video out of BC, shared on your wall just moments ago by a friend in Canada. With a click of the mouse you find yourself watching footage of heavily armed mounties in riot gear advancing on a dirt road blockade – made up of indigenous peoples and a varied band of supporters.

The video tells you it’s somewhere in Tsilhqot’in Territory, west of Williams Lake, BC. It might as well be Timbuktu – it’s the people, the situation, the deeply human experience that you, like millions of others around the world, are tuning into.

An iPhone camera documenting the scene pans over to a First Nations elder – a grandmother of the Xeni Gwet’in people of the Tsilhqot’in, firmly planted in her wheelchair, staring down the police and trucks carrying mining equipment parked behind them. Shutters snap thousands of hi-res images of the unfolding drama. One of the policemen bellows orders from a megaphone, something about a final warning, lost in the chants of the protestors – which go something like, “The world is watching!” 

Then, the moment of truth: A gang of jack boot and baton-clad officers emerges through a fog of freshly deployed tear gas, descending on the protestors, who have formed a human chain around this grandmother…

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Within the hour this clip, from one of many cameras documenting the confrontation, has been uploaded to youtube and shared through facebook, twitter, email chains, etc. The footage is so graphic, so viscerally archetypal in nature – a classic David-vs-Goliath scene – so perfectly capturing the injustice of the situation, that it’s hard not to react to it. Activists and independent media in BC forward it furiously to their Canadian and International contacts – including media.

Soon, producers at major international outlets like the BBC are downloading HD quality images and preparing news stories – which are as much about the viral video clip that’s shocking the world as the violence itself over a mine in BC.

The eloquent chief of the First Nation whose territory the mine would invade, Marilyn Baptiste, is fielding calls from everyone from Amy Goodman to Anderson Cooper. Within days, the governments of BC and Canada, the mining company, the already severely embattled RCMP have been indelibly connected by tens of millions of people around the world to the violent oppression of environmental protestors, among them aboriginal grannies in wheelchairs.

And by the time these parties realize what hit them, it’s too late – they have lost all control of the story. It’s now an international spectacle.  And guess what? Forget about that mine. It’s done like dinner.

A little far-fetched, you say? Allow me to explain.

I raise this hypothetical scenario not to shock or scare, and certainly not to incite the type of situation I describe – quite the opposite. I present it because this is exactly where things are headed at this very moment  – based on our present trajectory. My colleague Rafe Mair has been prophesying this unfortunate conclusion for years now – in these pages and before that – and, sadly, I too have come to envisage the same inexorable results from the bad decisions being made by our politicians, on this issue and many others.

As for Fish Lake/Prosperity Mine, it’s mostly the fault of the BC Government, first under Gordon Campbell, now under Christy Clark – who continues  to astonish by out-doing even her predecessor in the contest to be the premier with the worst environmental record in BC, perhaps Canadian, history (she’s probably neck and neck with Ralph Klein at this stage, but Christy’s just getting warmed up). Let’s review the Campbell/Clark Government’s record on the issue with a brief timeline:

  • First, the BC Government quickly and painlessly approved Taseko Mines’ plan to destroy Fish Lake for its “Prosperity Mine”, only to be embarrassed in late 2010 when the Harper Government rejected the same proposal following its far more extensive Federal Panel Review (the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Federal Environment Ministry and dozens of expert interveners and First Nations were all strongly opposed to the project).
  • Then, a full six weeks before the Harper Government decided to grant Taseko a second shot at an environmental review early last week, based on an amended plan that doesn’t directly destroy Fish Lake (but is, nevertheless, as bad or worse ecologically than its predecessor, according to the First Nations), the Clark Government quietly issued work permits to the company to begin building roads and doing heavy-duty exploratory drilling. This was a breathtakingly provocative and inflammatory move  by Premier Clark, amid an already highly charged atmosphere. Unbelievable, really – flouting the Feds, First Nations, and the people of BC in one fell swoop.
  • Upon discovering this, last week, the First Nations filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court to suspend or cancel those permits while the project is still under federal review (a no-brainer, it would seem)
  • This past Saturday, Chief Baptiste personally (and alone, I’m told, by solid sources) confronted Taseko’s trucks that had just moved into the territory to begin work. Having been informed by the chief that they were trespassing, the truck drivers turned around and left.
  • Now this week, Taseko Mines has filed for an injunction against the Tsilhqot’in, seeking to bar the First Nations from preventing the company’s workers from entering their territory! At the same time, The First Nations have filed for a counter-injunction against the company. As you can see, things are escalating at lightning speed – with more hearings scheduled for tomorrow. It remains to be seen how the courts will rule – lord knows they’ve been put in a hell of a spot by the Province.

So it is at the feet of one Premier Christy Clark that the lion’s share of the blame lies – and will lie, if things get even more out of hand. But knowing how vehemently opposed the First Nations are to this project on their territory; knowing the litany of new problems with the alternate proposal  – which has already been presented publicly through the original Federal Panel Review – the Harper Government should never have sent this project back for a second review. So both of these governments are complicit on some level in forcing the all-too-real hypothetical situation I’ve described here.

I say all these things now, knowing that at least some people within the Clark and Harper administrations will read this (and please help ensure they do, by forwarding this article to your MLA and MP). It is to them I’m speaking.

I implore Mr. Harper and Ms. Clark to recognize how the world has changed since the 1990’s-era Gustafsen Lake, Oka, and other relatively recent violent stand-offs between indigenous peoples and the RCMP and Sûreté du Quebec, still seared in our national consciousness.

Today, we live in the post-Dziekanski era – where one false move by law enforcement and governments is instantly on the public record for millions to see. The Surveillance State works both ways, you see; police can bring their cameras to intimidate protestors, but it is they who are really on candid camera now. (Though, I want to be clear: the police are mere pawns in this game – it is the politicians who drive the situation; and yet, the RCMP’s image is at an all-time low, which will likely make the media and public more ready to blame the police if things go sideways here).

Granted, there may be some instances where the public is divided on the rough handling of protestors by police – some instances, even, like Vancouver’s recent Stanley Cup Riot, where they collectively wish law enforcement took a harder line.

But this is a mine, after all – with undeniably severe ecological impacts; a mine which has already been rejected by the federal government; a mine which prompted an RCMP investigation into insider trading when millions of shares were dumped weeks in advance of the federal government’s rejection of it; a mine which First Nations, with very real and powerful legal rights, vehemently oppose; a mine which a significant majority of BC citizens also oppose. So the prevailing sympathy will be with the mine’s opponents if the conflict descends into violence.

If the Tsilhqot’in people and their supporters are smart – and they are, I believe – they will be preparing right now for the aforementioned scenario. They will take donations to purchase some affordable yet highly effective camcorders. They will train their membership in how to film, edit and upload footage to youtube; how to circulate it through email and social media. They will continue developing information trees, local and international media contacts (they’ve been extraordinarily effective at garnering media interest up to this point, party thanks to their impressive chiefs Marilyn Baptiste and Joe Alphonse). If they are smart, they will do the above – and they will wait.

They will wait and pray that our courts do the right thing and force Taseko to stand down – at least until the federal government has completed its environmental review of the company’s amended proposal. They will wait and hope the Clark and Harper governments come to their senses. But they will be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

With words bearing the full force of their conviction, the Tsilhqot’in have repeatedly demonstrated the resolve to stand on that blockade – even give their lives to protect their sacred land and water – and many supporters have already vowed to stand by their side.

But in addition to that, they will have the cameras ready to roll, the iPhones and laptops set to upload to the world the reality of the injustice being perpetrated upon them. And in the era of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the social media-fueled Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Keystone XL and Enbridge protests, the world simply has no stomach for watching cops beat up good people standing up for the right values.

So to our provincial and federal governments – and particularly to Ms. Clark – I say, think long and hard before you venture any further down this road. It can only end badly – not just for the brave souls who will inevitably suffer through the sacrifices they make standing up for what they believe in – but for you, your government and your very legacy…not to mention Canada’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

For all our sakes, let us hope cooler heads prevail.

Marie William of the Xeni Gwet'in fishes Teztan Biny (

Why Culture Matters: Prosperity Mine’s Impacts on the People and Land of the Nemaiah Valley


Editor’s Note: In the wake of two major developments regarding the highly controversial proposed Prosperity Mine – the Harper Government’s decision to provide Taseko Mines a new environmental review for an alternate version of the project and the BC government’s issuing of road building and exploration permits to the company, over First Nations opposition – David Williams of Friends of Nemaiah Valley provides a candid summary of the enormous environmental and cultural implications of the proposed mine. This is the first story from our new op-ed blog, Your Voice.


Earlier this week, we at Friends of the Nemaiah Valley (FONV) heard that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has agreed to conduct an environmental assessment of Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) proposed “New Prosperity” mine application in Tsilhqot’in territory.

This unfortunate decision is misguided for many reasons. This is the third try by TML to develop this mine, one of the largest gold/copper deposits in British Columbia. It was turned down twice in the recent past because the environmental consequences would be too great. Even by Taseko’s own admission during hearings last year, this “tweaked” proposal, then known as Option II, would have even worse environmental consequences than the one rejected by the federal government.

While there are environmental reasons to reject this mine – it is in prime grizzly habitat, will destroy a large rainbow trout population, and threatens large salmon runs that are part of the Fraser River fishery – it is the impact it will have on the local Xeni Gwet’in community in the Nemaiah Valley that I want to focus on.

Picture a “camp” of up to 600 miners placed into a remote First Nations Community that is still largely dependent upon the land for sustenance and identity. This camp will be in place for up to 35 years.  250 Xeni Gwet’in, the People of the Rivers, live in the Nemaiah Valley alongside a small settler community of about fifty people. The latter operate small ranches, run wilderness lodges, fish, hunt and trap, and just like the way of life that prevails here.

Xeni Gwet’in, like indigenous people everywhere, identify with their land. They see themselves as part of it and view any action that destroys any part of it as an assault upon their very being. These days Tsihqot’in culture is recovering from the onslaughts of the colonial era; displacement from places they have relied upon for survival for virtually forever, the reserve system, and residential schools that were designed to destroy their language and culture. That recovery is well advanced in the Nemaiah Valley.  Fully 50% of the food consumed comes directly from the land and includes salmon and trout from Nabas.

Consequently they have the lowest diabetes rate in British Columbia. The Tsihlqot’in language, almost lost a few years ago, is now taught in the local school. Peter Brand, Director of the brilliant First Voices programme, says that of all the places he visits across the province the Nemaiah Valley Xeni Gwet’in live closest to their traditional way of life.

An ethic of caring for their land lies deep within the culture.

Chief Marilyn is one of three Xeni Gwet’in co-authors interviewed by Jonaki Bhattacharyya, doctoral candidate at the University of Waterloo. (It’s Who We Are: Locating Cultural Strength in Relationship with the Land, a chapter in a forthcoming book published by UBC Press).

“You need to teach about the importance of caring for water and resources as early as you can! And that’s how the language is learned.

The Tsilhqot’in language is where the deepest strength of who we are and how we’re tied to the land really is.”

Speaking of the panel hearings into Prosperity Mine specifically specifically Marilyn says:

“Our community here, Xeni Gwet’in…we went into the CEAA Panel hearings thinking that we weren’t going to have enough speakers. That was always the fear in all the communities. Because that is a very threatening, intimidating process! Even to us, as leaders!  But…our people did just tremendously.  It would blow your socks off! Our Elders, our people…just being there, filling the room all those days, and being here those long hours. You couldn’t chase them away if you wanted to. They’d probably chase you away! [laughs] And our youth, the school, all of the kids… The senior class decided to do some submissions.  They did a beautiful job. And the intermediate class, they did a play. That was so amazing! They did such a tremendous job. The strength and the voices of everybody in the Tsilhqot’in communities…”

From the same chapter by Bhattacharyya, Xeni Gwet’in Wild Horse Ranger David Setah: 

“I think in order to give, to find that strength…your kids should also know their past, your past histories… all that about being caretakers, Chilcotin War, all the legends. All that will lead them to who they are. And all that will strengthen them, because they know that they are actually Tsilhqot’ins, and they know their history. And they can go out there being proud because they know they’re connected to that area.

That’s one of my biggest goals is that we’re being caretakers. We’ve done it in the past, and with European contact and things like that, we can still do it. We must still keep in mind that we need to protect our rights. If we keep on in that fashion we’re just building ourselves a stronger nation, and it would be pretty hard for something to come in to affect us. The land is… to remain as a nation and to be recognized as a nation you need the land. We need to take care of the land. That’s what we did a long time ago.  And that’s why we’re situated in the areas that we are: to take care of the land.”
Culture matters. These voices bring an important message. Indigenous cultures and languages are vital repositories of knowledge and custom that show a thousand ways to be human. Indigenous cultures, and a way of life still strong in the Nemaiah Valley, can teach us all how better to live in this land. Until we learn to show respect for the land, and for them, we will continue an ethic of endless growth that is having cumulative environmental impacts that threaten the very ecosystems that make life on this planet possible.

The people of Xeni are not unsophisticated. They and their settler neighbours and friends were  opposed to Prosperity Mine last year. The new model is no better or even worse. They know what 600 miners running loose in their community will do to their way of life, to their land, and to their children. Drugs, alcohol and abuse will be an inevitable component. Mechanized recreation on a vast scale will destroy budding attempts by the community to build a local economy centred around wilderness and cultural tourism. There is plenty of precedent for similar disasters throughout Canada and in third world countries.

It is time to put an end to this colonialist venture if Canada is to maintain even the pretence of being a just nation.

David Williams is the President of Friends of the Nemaiah Valley