The thing about secrets is they always come to light and often cause an uproar when they do.
This is precisely what’s happening in the Kwakiutl Nation right now.
Secret meetings have reportedly occurred between certain former elected band council members, Western Forest Products, and Lemare-Lions Gate Group.
The meetings reportedly discussed logging old-growth forests in the First Nation’s territories. At stake is the Suquash Creek area, which contains much of the last remaining old-growth in their territory, is of extremely high biological value and is of high cultural significance to the Kwakiutl.
The reported deal resulting from these discussions has been far from well-received. They have resulted in local outrage, a demand letter to the Minister of Forests, threats of blockades and the ouster of four elected council members.
The gist of the controversy is that Kwakiutl Nation has had a longstanding moratorium on old-growth logging in their territory. Recent cutblocks in a sacred area were approved without consultation with Hereditary Chiefs, matriarchs and community members.
Kwakiutl members are concerned because the majority of old-growth forests in their territory have already been logged. Recent cutblocks are within the at-risk old-growth prioritized for deferral by the BC Government.
The Suquash Creek area is of high cultural significance to the Kwakiutl and, as some of the last remaining old-growth in the territory, is also of extremely high biological value.
While it’s unclear what happened, there’s been a massive disconnect between what these former elected council members were reportedly willing to sign off on versus what the hereditary leadership and their community members support.
Whether this disconnect was caused by a perceived potential for personal gains or just a general difference of opinion is speculation.
But regardless, it’s a rift that these large forest corporations have, by all indications, taken full advantage of.
Reportedly, representatives of Western Forest Products and Lemare-Lions Gate Group present during these meetings drew up a deal with the four former council members.
The four former council members reportedly “speaking for the Kwaquitl” signed off on more old-growth logging on the Kwaquitl’s territories, despite the Nation publicly speaking out against the logging proposal for the last two years.
The secret meetings allegedly attempted to get around what Kwakiutl members and hereditary leadership have made clear–they want no more logging of old growth without strong consultation.
“No consultation or basic information sharing [regarding the deal] has ever occurred with our Kwakiutl membership, our hereditary chiefs, or the matriarchs of our tribe,” says a letter to the Ministry of Forests, signed off on by 15 members of the Nation, including Hereditary Chief David Knox.
“This deal was negotiated and concluded in secret without the free, prior, and informed consent of the true stewards of our lands and territory. Thus, the laws of British Columbia and the laws of the Kwakiutl Nation have been violated,” it reads.
The Kwakiutl have made two demands on the BC government:
- Suspend all logging activities in the area immediately, including permits for road building, until further notice.
- Share a copy of the disputed logging deal immediately with Kwakiutl members, hereditary leadership, and matriarchs so that they can review its contents and ramifications.
If the Ministry doesn’t respond to these demands, the Kwakiutl and its allies will be marching into and occupying key home village sites, hunting grounds, and medicine sites.
So far, all that the Kwakiutl members, hereditary leadership, and matriarchs have been able to piece together about the secret deal is that the targeted old growth is in Tree Farm Licenses held by Western Forest Products, that the Lemare Group has logged several cutbacks already and is currently building roads towards the next set of cut blocks.
You can read the Nations Letter in full here.
To support the Nation in its demands, you can head here for more info.