Mar 5, 2019 - Clear-Cut Logging Commences in Tsawout Reserve on Saturna Island – A Threat to Traditional Activities
Saturna Island, BC (March 3, 2019) – The elected leadership of Tsawout and Tseycum First Nations have contracted Chemainus Forest Products Ltd. to commence clear-cut logging of Saturna Island 7 (“IR#7”), a 146-hectare reserve of both Nations. Public notice was given on the afternoon of Tuesday February 26 and falling began the following morning. In less than a week, nearly a third of the reserve lands have been clear cut (around 130 acres).
Many members in the two Nations feel justifiably concerned that this extensive logging activity on traditional land will threaten the freedom to practice and expand their traditional activities, and they are at a loss to understand why their traditional land is being cleared. Many are questioning if the band administrations followed due process, or are relying on outdated information to proceed. The members of these Nations were consulted back in 2010 when the idea of logging these lands was raised and the decision then was abandoned. No formal community consultation has happened with the members of the bands since then. It was only Saturna Island residents that were consulted in June of 2016 when the idea was raised again and then, to the relief of many on island, there was no action taken and the assumption was that the logging idea had once again been abandoned.
Tuesday’s notice came as a big surprise to almost everyone who cares about these lands.
The Tsawout First Nation has 955 registered members of whom more than half live on a small reserve in suburban Saanich, British Columbia. “The only current standing land on which we can safely practice, celebrate and teach many of our traditional activities on our reserve land on Saturna Island, activities we have been practicing for thousands of years”, says Nick Claxton, a member of the Tsawout First Nation. “We currently have no other private, safe, standing land.”
Due to the cultural and social damage wrought by years of First Nations children in institutional residential schools and other tragic government policies over the last century, there is a poverty of connection between generations and a profound loss of their indigenous language and knowledge of traditional practices and culture. Just as the traditional language of the W̱SÁNEĆ people is seeing a resurgence in the use of N SENĆOŦEN in schools and the recently published SENĆOŦEN Dictionary, other traditional activities are being embraced by W̱SÁNEĆ youth such as hunting, fishing, the gathering and use of traditional plants, and other important traditional practices.
The re-introduction of the SENĆOŦEN language is part of a move from within the W̱SÁNEĆ people towards healing, a celebration of and pride in who they are and an embracing, celebration and teaching of traditional practices and activities. Many of the youth from the Tsawout First Nation have learned to hunt and harvest on this land. As the population of W̱SÁNEĆ grows, without the challenges of previous generations, this land will be a crucial place to instill traditional values.
“This is not our way!”, says another Tsawout young person, commenting on the logging of Tsawout traditional land on TEKTEKSEN (Saturna Island).
Arguments that the reasons for logging of traditional land are about fire protection, the removal of diseased trees or for small-margin, short-term gain have all been challenged and discounted. “If it were simply an issue of money”, says Nick Claxton, commenting on the possible reason for the clear-cutting of traditional lands. “We are convinced that greater financial returns could be achieved through more creative economic incentives to preserve our traditional land.”
Saturna Island 7 IR#7
IR#7 is a 145.7 hectare reserve of the Tsawout and First Nation. The lands of the reserve and much of the surrounding lands have been occupied and used by the Tsawout First Nation for traditional hunting and other traditional purposes for thousands of years, and even to the present time by the Claxton and other families. The reserve has been selectively logged in the past (approximately 60 years ago) but now is fully regenerated with dense ecosystems punctuated by old-growth stands. It is home to a plentiful deer, healthy plants and medicines that have been used for generations.
For more information: Nick Claxton, firstname.lastname@example.org