Protest Against Interfor on Nuxalknalus

ISTA is the Place of Origin for the Nuxalkmc
Our Most Sacred Songs and Dance Come From ISTA

Left: Nuxalkmc Ray Morton drumming on a massive tree stump from an ancient tree destroyed by Interfor on Nuxalknalus (King Island).

Nuxalknalus (King Island) is a remote island situated about 50 km southeast of Bella Coola, between Dean and Burke Channel on the West Coast of British Columbia (BC), Canada. Nuxalknalus is within the traditional territory of the Nuxalk Nation and was known to the Nuxalkmc as Nuxalknalus long before Captain Vancouver mistakenly "discovered" it in 1793 and named it King Island.

Fog Creek on Nuxalknalus is known to the Nuxalk people as ISTA. ISTA is a former village site and the Place of Origin of the Nuxalk people. ISTA is the place where the First Woman decended to Earth, and from her all life grew.

Nuxalknalus is still used by the Nuxalk people for food gathering, fishing, hunting, spiritual ceremonies and other activities. Physical evidence of past Nuxalk occupation at ISTA still remains today and includes canoe runs, house remains, culturally modified trees and petroglyphs. This evidence supports the Nuxalk people's traditional use, occupation and Aboriginal Title to Nuxalknalus.

In 1995, 17 Nuxalk people, including three Hereditary Chiefs, were arrested for trying to protect ISTA. In 1997, Interfor (International Forest Products) was again given permission by the BC Ministry of Forests to build roads on Nuxalknalus to cut down the old growth forest. Interfor workers were taken to and from each day by a boat which landedat ISTA (Fog Creek).

On 6 June 1997, in the early morning, Interfor workers landed at ISTA as usual to carry out project work. Approximately three quarters of a kilometer up the mainline from the shore, protesters formed a blockade to prevent workers from accessing work sites. There were six Nuxalk Nation members and 14 non Nuxalk protestors. In total over 55 people were present at the blockade and Interfor's logging operation on Nuxalknalus was halted for 19 days.

Left: Banner on Interfor grappler saying "Stop Clearcutting the Great Bear Rainforest." About 1.5 kilometers up the east logging mainline there was a large tripod constructed in the middle of the road. Three protesters, one with his arm chained by carabiners to a cement anchor piece buried below the road surface were beneath the tripod and two were suspended from the apex of the tripod.

Left: Nuxalkmc protesters Ray Morton and Harry Schooner at ISTA in 1997. They are drumming next to a huge stump, the remains of an ancient tree in an old growth forest clearcut logged by Interfor.

Nuxalk Territory has never been ceded and no treaty has ever been signed with the Nuxalk Nation. The Nuxalkmc have not consented to their forests being clearcut by multinational logging corporations. Since the early 1990s the Nuxalk people have fought to stop Interfor from destroying their traditional territory. To no avail, they lobbied both Interfor and the BC government to stop clearcutting.

The Nuxalkmc made a second stand against Interfor in June 1997. Six people were served with an injunction brought about by Interfor: Warren Snow, Emily Johnny, William Ernest Tallio, Harry Schooner, Hereditary Chief Qwatsinas (Edward Moody) and Colette Schooner.

Facing charges of criminal contempt, the Nuxalk protestors appeared in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on 5 October 1997. Their many supporters gathered for a drumming circle outside the courthouse.

Hereditary Chief Qwatsinas made a statement to the judge: "Our chiefs, our elders and our people go out to stop the destruction of our land and face criminal charges in court as a result. Even now, these companies are clearcutting sites that are sacred to our people. Western Forest Products is relentlessly clearcutting our rainforests at Kimsquit and Interfor continues to clearcut our sacred ISTA."

Right: Collette Schooner, a Nuxalk Youth, 16 years old.

Collette was arrested on 24 June 1997 for protecting ISTA. Collette says: "My mother has been arrested for protecting ISTA. My grandfather was arrested too. Now I am here for the youth and future generations to stop the clearcutting of this sacred forest."

The Nuxalk people who were arrested at ISTA were supported by members of several environmental groups who had been invited to ISTA by Hereditary Chief Nuximlayc.

It hurts that we should be jailed because we stand up for the land. We are portrayed as criminals. I would like to say that the Nuxalk People who stood up to protect ISTA (the Hereditary Chiefs, the Women, the Children, and the Families) have not forgotten their Smayustus. They have strong spirits and that is why they went out there.

Our responsibility to protect the land comes from the Great Spirit and ISTA is one of our most sacred areas. We have accepted the responsibility to speak for the bear, raven, eagle, killer whale and salmon who will be affected by logging. ISTA is being desecrated by the logging of Interfor and we are protesting out of responsibility to protect our sacred lands.

Head Hereditary Chief Nuximlayc (Lawrence Pootlass), 1997.

Right: Hereditary Chief Qwatsinas (Edward Moody) being arrested by the RCMP at ISTA in 1997. He says: "The court system and the judicial system and the laws that are being placed on us are not our laws. Our laws are natural Nuxalk Laws. They allow us to protect our lands and forests. Laws flowing through us – throug spirits and land – this is a spiritual struggle.

We will continue to say it is not a legal enforcement issue, it is a political, environmental and human issue. Today, there is very limited space in our Territory. To continue to live, we need the old growth forests and other pristine areas. We are here to protect the forest and lands. Our history is intertwined with this land."

Clearcutting Destroys Salmon Habitat

The clearcutting of Nuxalk Territory by Interfor and Western Forest Products is wrecking the salmon spawning streams. Salmon are of great importance to the Nuxalk people.

There are a variety of fish that run at different times of the spring and summer months in Nuxalk Territory. Fish is one of the main diets of the Nuxalk people. We are dependant on fish for survival. With the high rate of unemployment and the high prices of food, fish has been and is still a traditional food, easily accessable by the Bella Coola River that runs through our village. In the spring the eulachon run from three to ten days. The grease proccessed from the eulachon is a rich oil. Eulachon are also preserved in a smokehouse.

Every year the Nuxalk have a Spring Salmon Ceremony by the Bella Coola River to give thanks to the Creator for providing the fish. Proceeding the ceromony is a feast for the community and guests. The Spring Salmon is cut into strips and smoked. The Nuxalk name for it is 'sluc' and it is eaten with eulachon grease. The fish remaining on the skin is half-smoked.

The Nuxalk survived long before any white settlers arrived in our valley and our struggle against clearcutting is so that future generations will be able to enjoy the salmon provided by the Creator.

International Youth Support Nuxalk Stand at ISTA

In 1999, concerned over Canada's destruction of the ancient temperate rainforest, children from around the world travelled to British Columbia with heartfelt messages to express their desire for environmental protection.

The 15 children from 11 different countries have brought banners with them in culmination of the Greenpeace International Youth Banner Project, which was created by and for youth as an opportunity to make their voices heard on the clearcut logging of the endangered ancient temperate rainforests.

Right: The International Youth Delegation unveiling their banners on the steps of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver in 1997. This action was taken to support the six Nuxalk on trial for defending their sacred land at ISTA. Later in the afternoon the Youth Delegation went to the offices of Interfor and Western Forest Products. Nuxalkmc youth David Snow spoke to Ric Slaco, Interfor chief forester and Interfor vice president P. J. Lowenberger.

Right: The International Childrens Delegation demonstrating outside the Parliament Building in Victoria. Their banners, written in German, are spread on the lawn in front of the Parliament Building.

Earlier in the day the Delegation and three Nuxalk youth met with John Allen (Deputy Minister of Forests) and another officials. The government officials presented a slide show proclaiming their concern.

But the youth were not fooled by the official's rhetoric and contrived greenwashing. They asked direct questions. Seraina, a 14 year old Swiss girl: "Is money more important for you than the lives of thousands of animals and all those plants and trees?"

The government officials had no reply but started to talk about the various managment plans to coverup their complicity in the destruction of the temperate rainforest caused by clearcutting.

Before the meeting was over, the youth handed over a banner and read the note of protest that they had written that ancient forests destruction be stopped; that the Great Bear Rainforest be protected; and that the respect the beliefs and land of the Nuxalk People be respected.

For more on the history of the ISTA protest, see Jacinda Nuskmata Mack: Remembering ISTA


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