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Aboriginal Title - Forestry Protest

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  • Tehaliwaskenhas-Bob Kennedy
    Turtle Island Native Network http://www.turtleisland.org OPEN LETTER January 28, 2001 To All Customers of Forest Products from British Columbia To Whom It may
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2001
      Turtle Island Native Network


      January 28, 2001

      To All Customers of Forest Products from British Columbia

      To Whom It may Concern:

      We are a political alliance of five Indigenous Nations comprised of 40
      constituent communities, located in the south, central interior of what is
      now known as British Columbia. Our Interior Alliance Nations are known as
      the Southern Carrier, the St�at�imc, the Nlaka�pamux, the Secwepemc and the

      The combined Aboriginal title territories of the Interior Alliance Nations
      cover almost one third of the present day Province of British Columbia and
      beyond. Our five Indigenous Nations have never ceded or surrendered our
      respective Aboriginal title and rights to Great Britain, Canada, the United
      States, British Columbia or Alberta.

      By way of this letter, we are asking that you do not purchase forest
      products from British Columbia, because 1.) They are stolen goods; and 2.)
      B.C. Forest Practices are unsustainable.

      We are asking you to support us:

      1.) By purchasing forest products only from companies that can show they
      have Aboriginal consent for their forestry operations; and
      2.) That their operations are ecologically sound and sustainable; and
      3.) By writing the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of British
      Columbia, to protest the destructive logging taking place in the British
      Columbia Interior; and


      The following initiatives were taken by the Government of British Columbia
      in the early 1990's without our involvement or consent:

      Protected Areas Strategy.
      Land Use Planning Processes (ie. Commission on Resources &
      Environment, Land & Resource Management Plans�s).
      Forest Practices Code.
      Forest Renewal B.C.
      B.C. Treaty Process.

      Our Interior Alliance Nations never consented to the B.C. Claims Task Force
      created on December 3, 1990, or the subsequent B.C. Treaty Process, which
      is based upon the 1986 Federal Comprehensive Claims Policy, and there was
      never any meaningful consultation with our Interior Alliance Nations
      regarding the other four initiatives mentioned above, the provincial
      initiatives were simply dictates from the provincial capital.

      The provincial land and forest initiatives of the 1990's, placed
      government Ministries and Third Party interests in front of the
      constitutionally protected, Aboriginal title, rights and interests of
      Aboriginal Nations, particularly those Aboriginal Nations and communities
      that refused to negotiate ownership of, and access to, natural resources,
      through the B.C. Treaty Process.

      Aboriginal Nations and peoples are treated merely as �stakeholders� in the
      provincial land and forest initiatives, ignoring their unique, priority,
      constitutionally protected status.

      As mentioned above, the establishment of the Forest Practices Code and
      Forest Renewal B.C. (FRBC) were done without meaningful consultation with
      Aboriginal Nations. The Code does not recognize or respect Aboriginal land
      use activities, let alone Aboriginal title. Moreover, FRBC has now
      redirected most of its monies back to the forestry companies through
      multi-year agreements, while eliminating funding for important cultural
      inventories such as the �Traditional Use Studies� by Aboriginal peoples.

      There has never been a Treaty between Aboriginal Nations and the Crown in
      the south central interior of B.C. (Roughly one third of the province),
      this area is therefore subject to the collective Aboriginal title, rights
      and interests of the Interior Alliance Nations.

      On December 11, 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling
      known as the Delgamuukw decision. For the first time in the history of
      Canada, the judicial branch of the federal government confirmed that
      Aboriginal title exists in Canada and that it is a unique, collective,
      property interest in the land itself.

      Despite the Supreme Court of Canada�s Delgamuukw ruling, which
      judicially recognizes that Aboriginal title exists in British Columbia and
      Canada, the executive branches of the federal and provincial governments
      have interpreted this court decision to mean that each Aboriginal Nation
      has to either enter into negotiations to extinguish their Aboriginal title
      and rights, or go to court and prove Aboriginal title to each and every
      inch of land. The governments know full well that the latter approach will
      cost tens of millions of dollars, which Aboriginal peoples don�t have.
      Consequently, we continue to receive little use and virtually no benefits
      from our forest resources.

      In 1994, using a portion of provincial stumpage fees, the Government of
      British Columbia established a Crown Agency called �Forest Renewal B.C.�,
      to direct and manage the stumpage fees �toward a new, more sustainable,
      productive and competitive forest economy�, but again we have benefited
      very little from this agency, even though the stumpage fees come from
      timber illegally harvested from our Aboriginal title lands.

      We are already experiencing an �overcut� and liquidation of our natural
      forests with tree farms due to commercial industrial logging practices.

      The Interfor Example:

      Just to provide you with one example from the B.C. Interior. My own
      community, the Neskonlith Indian Band, has concerns regarding Interfor�s
      forestry operations at the Adams Lake Mill.

      Interfor has extensively logged an area to which we have submitted a legal
      (specific) claim to. It is our 1862 Neskonlith Douglas Reserve. The entire
      operating area of Interfor if also within our Aboriginal title territory.

      In 1997, just before the Delgamuukw decision was handed down, the B.C.
      government entered into an �Innovative Forest Practices Agreement� (IFPA),
      with Interfor. The intent of this IFPA is to allow Interfor to increase its
      �Annual Allowable Cut�, based upon �innovative forest practices� such as
      thinning , sylviculture, etc.

      As we understand it, Interfor is proceeding to announce an increase in
      their AAC next month. Yet we have never been meaningfully consulted
      regarding our traditional and contemporary activities in Interfor�s
      operating area, even though it is our 1862 Neskonlith Douglas Reserve, as
      well as, our Aboriginal title territory.

      We are concerned about the forest practices allowed by government and
      industry on our lands, that is why we have put forward candidates to sit on
      the regional and national boards of the Forest Stewardship Council. For
      your information, we are providing you with a copy of a Legal Memorandum on
      FSC�s Principle #3 as it pertains to the development of
      regional standards in British Columbia. (See attached.)

      We can understand your position regarding obtaining relatively
      inexpensive forest products, but when it comes from British Columbia, the
      price doesn�t include our proprietary interest, as Aboriginal title
      holders, nor does it include the environmental costs of protecting the
      biodiversity we need to carry out our traditional activities. We therefore,
      once again, urge you not to buy B.C. forest products unless they come from
      an Aboriginal Forestry company.


      Chief Arthur Manuel
      Neskonlith Indian Band
      Chairman, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
      Chairman, Interior Alliance

      CC. Interior Alliance Leaders Council
      Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
      Assembly of First Nations

      Turtle Island Native Network
      Aboriginal News & Information
      E-mail: infocom@...
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