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Logging protest camp ordered off Ditidaht territory by community's leaders

“Their protest is more ­disrespectful than anything. The road that they are blocking has traditional harvesting and hunting areas,” said Ditidaht Chief Brian Tate.
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Elected and hereditary leaders ordered a logging protest group to dismantle their camp, set up on Ditidaht territory without permission, according to Chief Brian Tate. The group said it was asked to be there by elders and members of the Ditidaht community. VIDEO / C̕AWAK ʔQIN FORESTRY

An alliance of Indigenous leaders delivered a final notice to logging protesters Thursday to immediately dismantle an illegal camp on Ditidaht Traditional Territory.

The formal request came from Ditidaht elected and hereditary chiefs, with support from C̕awak ʔqin Forestry and elected and hereditary leaders from Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht Nations.

A representative for Ditidaht First Nation said the camp was built across a main logging road in Tree Farm Licence 44, in the Nitinat area on southern ­Vancouver Island, without prior or informed consent from the community.

“Their protest is more ­disrespectful than anything. The road that they are blocking has traditional harvesting and hunting areas,” said Ditidaht Chief Brian Tate. “They went in there without talking to us, ­without permission and [without] informing us what their intent is.”

Roughly 15 people are at the camp, Tate said, and they’ve built a large structure across the road made from rocks, branches and gravel.

The camp has been there for about 20 days.

“An unauthorized encampment disrespects our right to walk with pride between the traditional and modern worlds,” he said. “To protect our culture and explore economic opportunities for the common good.”

The group has identified itself as Sassin Camp and said it is not affiliated with any of the other protest groups such as Rainforest Flying Squad or Save Old Growth. In a statement, they said they were asked to be there by elders and members of the Ditidaht community.

“The elected chief is supposed to consult the Ditidaht people. The people they are supposed to consult with are the ones asking us to be here,” the statement said. “We are planning on staying. This is where we are asked to be. This is where we are defending the forests. We are a nonviolent action.”

In a video of the notice being delivered, protesters can be seen wearing face coverings as they converse with First Nations leaders.

C̕awak ʔqin Forestry operates TFL 44, a defined forest area of 136,960 hectares on western Vancouver Island.

As of May 2021, 35 per cent of the forestry company is owned by Huumiis Ventures Limited ­Partnership (owned by Huu-ay-aht First Nations) and 65 per cent by Western Forest Products Inc.

Thursday’s notice comes after at least one previous attempt to have the camp dismantled. Tate said he spoke to the group roughly two weeks ago, asking them to respect First Nations traditional law and governance.

“There’s no respect for our decision making or our ­capabilities of looking after our territory,” he said. “They perceive what’s best.”

Ditidaht First Nation has about 10 months left of an ­integrated resource management planning process with the province, which will serve as a guiding document for resource planning and management, Tate said.

In March, Rainforest Flying Squad announced it would be returning for its third season of blockades at Fairy Creek. The group has been operating camps near Port Renfrew as part of a co-ordinated protest to block logging of old-growth forests in the Fairy Creek watershed.

ngrossman@timescolonist.com

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