Forests Sustain Life

Above: True sustainable forestry. A living "plank–stripped" ancient cedar, Walkus Island, Nuxalk Territory.

Chief Qwatsinas on Forests (17 October 2009)

I heard a phrase that said: "Money makes the world go round." What I say is: "Nature makes the world go round." It is bizarre that the brightest minds glow in the concrete jungle, and the management of our lands, waters, and forests is handled with a pencil behind desks in the big towers of business.

Growing up in the rainforests, I've seen them being clearcut down to the rivers and their banks. This compromising of the integrity of the salmon habitat and their spawning grounds, as well as of the bear and wolf habitat, took away much of our traditional livelihood. The annual allowable cut from our perspective was not sustainable, and had no consideration for salmon, wildlife, or the water quality. Tree farms certainly do not replace ancient forests or habitat. It was massive greed that led to the end of the gravy train; how else was it supposed to end?

The Creator gave us many gifts, and we, as unthinkable humans, thought we were smart, and squandered it away. Any regrets? There is no justice in how we treated Mother Earth. Words cannot bring back these wonderful forests; not in our time. Is Romanticism appropriate when we discuss the true stewardship of the lands. Is it arguable? I don't think so, because First Nations were the stewards of these lands and waters for 10,000 years and kept it healthy. But the track record of the newcomers for 150 years is that they destroyed much of it. Now we question who the real and true stewards of the lands and waters are.

Today, we are far removed from Nature, which took care of us so well. Do we question that? I like the drink of beautiful water, and the breath of fresh air. What is the excuse today? Searching, searching for answers; is not the way to go. Who moved from Europe to come to these ecologically beautiful lands and waters to harvest everything in its path, for the sake of progress, and squandered it away? A lesson should have been learned not to be repeated over and over again.

Metaphors are totally different things in this discussion, because there is no comparison. Words fall short in the wind; but action in what we believe is what will make the difference. We cannot separate ourselves as human beings from Nature or Mother Earth; we are part of it, and must recognize this, and be part of it; so that we do not destroy ourselves along with everything else. It is time to recognize this, and embrace the valuable contributions of the real humans, stewards of the lands and waters, our people. The true quality of life will follow.

Logging companies and government always say:

"Forests Mean Jobs"

What about: "Forests Sustain Life?"

Forestry is another big issue that the media has been talking about. Everything from Clayoqout Sound, to tribal parks, to trips to Europe, to forest guardians have been discussed . . . In the past and still today our people have specific areas within their territory to protect. This includes all sacred sites, trees, rivers, streams and wildlife. We as people must take care of our land because it is a part of our obligations to Tatau, the Creator not to any foreign government. We must maintain our obligations to Tatau, the Creator, in order that the forests will provide for us.

After the settlers first arrived they soon realized the amount of timber we had on our land. They noticed the size and the beauty of our mighty trees and decided to take it for themselves and for their own values.

The settlers first started taking our trees with hand saws and axes then slowly moved to more easier and faster ways to destroy our forests.

Now they have machines that can destroy forests ten times faster than when they first started such as the chainsaw, highlead towers, grapple yarders, sawmills and pulpmills. Beautiful isn't it?

Logging companies go into our lands without a care about what they do. The only thing on their mind is money and not the trees, not the plants, not the birds nor the fish or animals. They always say: "Forests mean jobs" What about "Forests sustain life" or "Forests are sacred."

Whenever a logging company wants to log a place, they hire archaeologists to come in and do rubber stamp archaeological surveys and assessments. All this to make their logging plans look good. When logging begins, our burial sites, sacred sites and traditional sites that are still used by our People today are desecrated. These companies also spray herbicides and pesticides which destroys our berries, our plant medicines and other traditional plant foods we gather and eat.

The way our land is being handled today is totally opposite to the way it was in the past. Our People are signing into agreements that are called "memorandums of understanding" or interim agreements with the Canadian and provincial governments that allow logging to continue. They even sign the agreements to be able to help in the destruction of our forests. When our People sign these agreements, they are signing our Title and Rights away.

Our People are even signing agreements with the two foreign governments to establish tribal parks. Indian parks? Internationally parks are known only for forests and animals. Are these governments putting us in the category as animals? Are these governments putting us in the category as savages? People don't live in parks! No where else in the world do you see any one living in parks. Sometimes they include the Indian reserves in these tribal parks. What next? Maybe they'll even place Indian casinos in these tribal parks.

Usually when these tribal parks are established they have something bad attached to it. There is a situation in one area where a native group signed a tripartite agreement with the Canadian and provincial government to establish a major tribal park on their territory. Not too long after it was signed, their new tribal park was advertised in most of the newspapers within "BC."

After all this advertising was done, nothing was even mentioned about the huge open pit mine that was being started near the new tribal park. Nothing was ever mentioned about how the agreement with the tribal park included the new mining operation. Were the people of the local area notified? Were neighbouring native groups informed and that there maybe damages happening to their land because of the mining? Do the people know what the damage will be? Do the people know that the environment will be destroyed?

Also in dealing with forest issues is Andrew Petter, the "BC" minister of forests, who travelled to Europe to promote "BC" forest products and the new tribal park they established with the Haisla People. What sort of image does this give to the Europeans about the relationship between natives and the Canadian and "BC" provincial government?

It is practically the same type of show and dance action that "BC" premier Mike Harcourt took part in with George Watts of the Nuu chah nulth.

The provincial government has been pushing tactics like this in order to get the European people to buy their "BC" forests products. The provincial government is trying to portray to the world that everything between themselves and their natives is alright. They want to do this in order to take down the environmental sanctions that were placed on "BC" forest products by Europe.

Now, we have people from a group called "Share" pushing for logging on our lands. These are the people that drive around town with the yellow ribbons on their vehicles. These are the people who promote logging. These are the people who promote clearcut logging. Many traditional and environmental people have been harassed and threatened by this group. Their boats are being untied in the middle of the night, their vehicles are being damaged, threatening phone calls at all hours and yards being thrashed.

Does Europe know about this? In one area people from "Share" went on to a reserve and vandalized someone's yard. One of the "Share" members was caught and arrested. This person who was arrested happened to be a main member of a white supremacist group. Does everybody else know what we are faced with? At one time there was an MLA on TV at a "Share" rendevouz gathering promoting clearcut logging. Are we as native people safe? Some of our own people don't realize this and yet they drive around with a yellow ribbon tied to their vehicle.

The latest news by the provincial government is the Forest Practices Code (FPC). There has been no consent for the two foreign governments to log our land and there has been no consent given to allow them to practise FPC. This idea is totally outrageous while at the same time they only leave a tiny section for aboriginal use.

Logging has threatened the forest life support system since the first settlers had first started cutting our trees. Our winged brothers and sisters are now becoming lost because their nesting homes are vanishing. The diverse life forms that depend on these forests are slowly becoming extinct. We cannot depend on reforesting the trees because it will take hundreds of years to build homes suitable for all our brothers and sisters of the forest.

It is disgusting that the Canadian and "BC" governments promote and give out timber licences for logging on our land yet they have not established any treaty, legal agreement or any sort of proper arrangement with our People. It is especially disgusting because their ways of logging are so primitive and barbaric.

We cannot allow this destruction to continue. Forests sustain life. We must keep our forests to nurture our most valuable resource, our children. We must keep our trees to provide us with oxygen. It would be suicide to deliberately extinguish all of our main oxygen supply.

We have had good responses from our previous articles and we encourage you to keep responding.

We not only speak for ourselves; but also for the birds, trees, animals, fish, sky . . .

For the future of our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born . . .


House of Smaysta Hereditary Chiefs: 

Liciw7mutusayc (Taylor King) 

Nuximlayc (Lawrence Pootlass) 

Qwatsi (David Clelliman) 

Qwatsinas (Edward Moody) 

Slicxwliqw' (Charlie Nelson) 

Snuxyaltwa (Deric Snow) 

Bella Coola, 1998 


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