The Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht First Nations have formally given notice to the B.C. government to defer old-growth logging for two years in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas of Vancouver Island while the Nations prepare formal forestry plans.
The agreement, signed on Saturday, is in addition to the decision of Huu-ay-aht First Nations to defer logging of its treaty lands.
“We are in a place of reconciliation now and relationships have evolved to include First Nations. It is time for us to learn from the mistakes that have been made and take back our authority over our ḥahahuułi (traditional territories),” a short statement by Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters, Hereditary Chief Paul Tate and Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones said.
In a press release on Monday, the three First Nations said for more than 150 years, they have watched as others decided what was best for their lands, water, and people, and that the declaration brings it to an immediate end.
Protests have been ongoing at Fairy Creek Port Renfrew around the harvesting of the old growth forests. The province has stated they are looking to the First Nations for guidance on how to create forestry and old growth policy.
The signatories say the declaration states that the nations are the last to benefit from what is taken out of the territory and the last to be asked what must be put back.
“Our three Nations look forward to building a future based on respectful nation-to-nation relationships with other governments that are informed by Indigenous history, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous rights, and Indigenous priorities,” Chief Councillor of the Pacheedaht First Nation Jeff Jones said.
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“We ask that all peoples both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learn and move forward together and that by working together we can realize a future that is fair, just, and equitable.”
The statement also says that for third parties to be welcome in their ḥahahuułi, they must respect their governance and stewardship, sacred principles, and right to economically benefit from the resources within the territory.
The agreement also includes a commitment from the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht to develop and implement world-class integrated resource management plans.
“These plans will draw on the teachings of their ancestors, wisdom of elders, input from citizens and valued partners, and the best forestry, fishery, and integrated resource management advice available,” the statement reads.
“The process will be open and transparent, and the leaders of the three nations commit to offering opportunities for input as long as it takes place through the process outlined by the Nations.”
In a statement, Teal-Jones, the company set to log Fair Creek, said they will abide by the declaration and look forward to engaging with the nations as they develop forestry plans.
Premier John Horgan also sent a statement, noting the province has received the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration and deferral request issued earlier today by the Chiefs of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.
The province acknowledging the Nations are the holders of constitutionally protected Indigenous interests within their traditional territories.
“We further recognize the three Nations will continue to exercise their constitutionally protected Indigenous interests over the protected areas. We honour the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration. And we are pleased to enter into respectful discussions with the Nations regarding their request. We understand the request must be addressed expeditiously, and we will ensure a prompt response,” Horgan said.
“Our government is committed to reconciliation. True reconciliation means meaningful partnerships. I know the three Nations are ready to enter into these discussions in a spirit of good faith, and with a goal of achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution. Our government is as well.”