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Old Growth Forest and the Pacheedaht Nation

Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations are currently in a dispute surrounding the logging of an old growth forest. The old-growth forest rests in the Fairy Creek (Ada’itsx) district on Vancouver Island (Nuu-Chah-Nulth territory), Canada.

The Pacheedaht and Ditidaht are two separate First Nation governments based on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Their territories lie next to each other. Meanwhile the old-growth forests run through both territories.

Dididaht First Nations territory.
Pacheedaht First Nations territory.

Consequently, industrial logging threatens the whole island of ancient old growth forests. Some trees live up to 2000 years old.

Whilst the Fairy Creek claims represent only a small part of the territory there has been fierce disputes between environmental groups, logging companies and the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht nation itself.

How the Pacheedaht people are protecting Old Growth Forest

Firstly, it is important to note that the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht land is unceded territory. Unceded means that First Nations never legally signed away their land to Canada or the Crown.

For this reason, the British Columbia government need to discuss and create treaties with First Nations people before any disturbances occur to their land.

Sadly, this is not always the case. Industrial logging continues to affect their land from years past. This is logging in which they play no part and receive no benefit (until recently). Thus, leaving Pacheedaht people consistently attempting to rehabilitate their land.

The damage that has occurred includes:

The damage that occurs to the environment is much more significant to these two nations. The land, the waters, the resources, the environment are not only the source of life but also carry spiritual and cultural significance to them.

The Ditidaht Constitution explicitly says:

“That we hold the wealth of our Nation and the use of our lands, waters and resources in the future as we did in the past, to the common good and benefit of all Ditidaht, by fostering development that is based on the principle of caring for and maintaining our physical and spiritual linkages with our lands, waters and resources for all generations.”

https://www.nitinaht.com/first-nation/

The Old Growth Forest Dispute at Fairy Creek

Less than 3% of the old-growth forest remains on Nuu-Cha-Nulth territory. Consequently, there have protests in efforts to halt the logging. Those responsible are the Fairy Creek Blockade: Protect Ada’itsx and the Rainforest Flying Squad.

The Fairy Creek blockade consists of three varying groups. The loggers, the environmentalists, and the First Nation land defenders. Fortunately, two of those three are fighting for the same thing – to stop logging the old-growth forest. These two groups, together, are the anti-loggers.

VIDEO: Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy  Creek – Vancouver Island Free Daily
Protesters attempt to stop Teal Jones logging from entering Fairy Creek.

It all began when logging company, Teal Jones, obtained a court injunction in the spring of 2021 banning blockades of logging activities in the Fairy Creek district. As a result, any protestors who delay the logging process are arrested for civil disobedience.

The Pacheedaht hereditary chief (Frank Jones) supports the logging claim and previously asked anti-loggers to go home and leave their territory. There are many reasons to ask the anti-loggers to leave including increased risk of wildfires and being subject to colonial policy.

First Nations all over Canada have had to endure colonial policy for far too long.

“Some outside force — mainly the federal government — comes onto our land and says, ‘we’re going to take care of you and we’re going to do things better than you’ve been doing.’ ”

https://thenarwhal.ca/pacheedaht-fairy-creek-bc-logging/

Meanwhile, the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht people have lived on those lands for hundreds of years. Throughout this time, they have always used resources in a sustainable manner.

Nation of Discontent

Contrary to the chief, an elder Bill Jones states that Frank Jones is not the hereditary chief because he did not grow up on Pacheedaht territory. This is because he was adopted by previous hereditary chief, Charlie Jones.

Frank Jones states:

“Pacheedaht needs to be left in peace to engage in our community-lead stewardship planning process so that we can determine our own way forward as a strong and independent Nation.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/14/canada-logging-blockade-first-nations-pacheedaht

However, Bill Jones continues to urge people to come and fight for the old-growth forest. He states:

“Federally instituted Indian Band Nations are by design meant to obliterate relationships to land and families, consent and matriarchal decision-making, and international agreements between other Indigenous Peoples. Pacheedaht First Nation is no exception to this condition of colonialism.”

https://www.capitaldaily.ca/news/indigenous-takes-on-the-fairy-creek-blockades

The Economic Value of Old Growth Forests

On another hand, the forestry industry, for so long an exploitative force that damaged the environment and cultural life of the territory, is now providing opportunities for its people.

Thirteen years ago, the Pacheedaht had no stake in forestry and had only been granted their land through acts of government. Today, Pacheedaht people handle about 140,000 cubic metres of annual cut on their territory. For the first time the Pacheedaht people are starting to benefit from the forestry industry. It is an important source of income and employment. Especially since the city of Victoria is more than two hours away.

The Pacheedaht community continues to make forestry investments today. As well as they earn percentages of revenues from timber on its territory cut by forestry companies.

The Protesters Fighting for Old Growth Forest

In June 2021, the British Columbia government released a statement that protects the Fairy Creek watershed. This is in effort to reconcile the old growth forest along with relationships between the Canadian government and Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

Along with this agreement the three nations signed the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration which allows them power over Ḥahahuułi. For more than 150 years they have watched as others decided what was best for their lands, water, and people. This declaration brings this practice to an immediate end.

Conclusion

These are steps in the right direction toward ending inequality for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Unfortunately, this does not mean there is no inequality in Canada. Indigenous people have faced colonial racism since Canada became a nation under the Crown. Their culture, language, practices, spirituality, and territory has been taken and suppressed for generations.

Although there is much confusion to the outside world of who the chiefs are and how to help the Nations- it is not the governments place to come in and try to “fix them” or “help them” (specifically when no one asked for help). They are powerful nations who have had the ability to thrive way before the western world ever began.

These steps toward restoring First Nations people’s power are a step towards equality.