The Pacheedaht First Nation says it will determine what will be logged and preserved in its territory through a resource stewardship plan, and it does not support “third-party activism” taking place in the disputed Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew.
In a statement signed by Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones and Chief Councillor Jeff Jones, the nation said it has always harvested and managed forestry resources, including old-growth cedar, for “cultural, ceremonial, domestic and economic purposes.”
“Our constitutional right to make decisions about forestry resources in our Territory, as governing authority in our Territory, must be respected,” the statement said.
The Fairy Creek area has been blockaded for eight months in a bid to protect what protesters say are some of the last old-growth stands of cedar on South Vancouver Island.
Teal-Jones Group, which holds the tree farm licence and approved cut-blocks and has the support of First Nations, wants to begin logging about 200 hectares along a ridge line above the Fairy Creek watershed and has a court injunction to remove the protesters.
There has been a tense standoff since the B.C. Supreme Court granted the injunction April 1, with the Rainforest Flying Squad saying they are willing to be arrested.
So far, the RCMP have not moved in on the blockade.
The Pacheedaht said the nation’s ownership and management of forest resources within its territory “need to be acknowledged.”
“We do not welcome or support unsolicited involvement or interference by others in our territory, including third-party activism,” the statement said. “Pacheedaht needs to be left in peace to engage in our community-led stewardship planning process.”
The Pacheedaht were not immediately available for comment, saying they are responding only to emailed questions.
The First Nation said its Integrated Resource Stewardship Plan will include the identification of special sites, traditional-use areas and places where conservation measures will be in place.
The statement said its has secured commitments from tenure holders such as Teal-Jones and the province to suspend and defer third-party forestry activities within “specific areas identified by Pacheedaht. This will result in the implementation of an immediate interim conservation measure.”
No specific sites were revealed by the Pacheedaht, who said “we have inherent governance rights and sacred responsibilities to manage the human use of resources in our territory.”
The Pacheedaht and province agreed on a forestry revenue agreement in 2017.
Pacheedaht territory includes the lands and waters along the southwest coast of the Island between Bonilla Point and Sheringham Point.
The Rainforest Flying Squad referred comment on Monday to Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, who has supported the protest movement and disagrees with both the hereditary and elected chiefs.
Jones said the statement was made without calling a meeting to discuss it with members of the community.
The B.C. Assembly of First Nations said the Pacheedaht First Nation population is 284, with 187 living off First Nation land.
“He didn’t quite say he wanted [protesters] evicted in his statement,” Bill Jones said in an interview. “I don’t think they have the authority to evict off any land except the reserve. He can hint that he doesn’t want them there, but he can’t evict them.”
The Pacheedaht, which translates to English as Children of the Sea Foam, is negotiating with Canada and British Columbia in the B.C. treaty process with the Ditidaht First Nation. A treaty agreement in principle was reached in 2019.
Jones disputes the authority of both chiefs until a treaty is ratified. He stands by the protection of the forests. “They are the last … the old-growth trees are a historical representation of what we are,” he said. “They are a representation of our original sensitivities to ourselves. When the last sensitivity to ourselves is taken away there is no other comforter for our own spiritual needs.”
“The colonial economy has always been about reaping and taking away,” Jones said.