Differing territorial claims by several First Nations bands appear to have postponed the proposed signing of a cooperation agreement between Selkirk Metals and Simpcw First Nation.
The signing, which was to have taken place on Tuesday afternoon, was cancelled at the last minute, apparently because of questions raised by Neskonlith and Adams Lake Indian Bands.
Selkirk Metals is a subsidiary of Imperial Metals, which is proposing a major zinc/lead mind at Ruddock Creek near Tum Tum Lake, which is located about 30 km directly east of Avola in the headwaters of the Adams River.
Close to 20 members of Neskonlith Band, unaware that the signing had been cancelled, traveled from Chase to Clearwater to protest the event.
Informed that the signing had been postponed, they staged a mini-demonstration next to the Community Resource Center to voice their concerns. They also went to the District of Clearwater office in an effort to talk with Mayor John Harwood, but were informed that he was not there.
Several of those taking part in the demonstration in Clearwater have been involved in protests against Sun Peaks ski resort over the past several years.
“Our elders felt it was important to come out today,” said Judy Wilson, chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band. “Traditional protocols are important, especially when another band is moving forward like this. Other communities have a responsibility to come and talk with us, especially when it involves our sacred headwaters.”
“We were the first people here,” said Neskonlith band elder Sarah Deneault. “We are supposed to be the keepers of this land and these waters.”
“No matter what we say, they won’t listen,” she said, recalling that women were dragged away by their feet during the protests at Sun Peaks.
“This one here is going to change something,” she predicted.
According to a media release from the protesters, the Lake Secwepemc People have set up a camp at the exploration site to protect the sacred headwater and further investigate this development and study its impacts on the land and water.
According to the release, the Secwepemc People collectively holds Aboriginal title. Single Indian bands, such as Simpcw First Nation, cannot claim it.
The proposed mine would be upstream of the most important salmon spawning area in the world, the release pointed out.
“Chief Nathan Matthew and the Simpcw First Nation Council are interested in knowing more details of the Adams Lake Indian Band’s interest in the Ruddock Creek project, and in finding constructive ways of working together toward a mutually beneficial consensus,” said a media release from Simpcw First Nations.
No comment could be obtained from an Imperial Metals spokesperson.