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Arrests at a BC Blockade

It saddens me to hear that elders and younger members of the Iskut First Nation have been arrested at a blockade within their traditional lands in northwestern BC. I conducted my fieldwork at Iskut and know many of the people arrested. I also know that the blockade against mining exploration in the area of the Iskut hunting camps is dividing the community over how best to protect local lands and resources from development.

The news story from the Canadian Press about the arrests is here.

News from the blockade written by protesters is offered on their blog.

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  1. Carlos Bazan wrote:

    Very confusing information. It makes it difficult to understand the situation fairly. The leaders of the community and its members do not seem to have the same goals and that weakens the position of the whole Tahltan nation. Can this problem be solved? Please, keep me posted. Thanks. Carlos

    Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 6:14 am | Permalink
  2. Carlos,

    You write, “The leaders of the community and its members do not seem to have the same goals and that weakens the position of the whole Tahltan nation,” and ask, “Can this problem be solved?”

    From my perspective, the problem is that the Tahltan nation lacks decision-making bodies and/or processes in which they have faith, and to which the people are committed. In other words, it is a governance problem.

    I think of good governance as leaders acting in the best interests of the community they are representing. This does not mean that leaders will never be at odds with their constituents. (I think of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) principled opposition to the so-called ‘nuclear option,’ and all of the flak he took for that as an example of a leader differing with his consitutents “in good faith,” as it were.)

    This seems to be a case of leaders not acting in the best interests of the community they’re representing. The central problem seems to be a conflict of interest on the part of the leaders, who not only represent the Tahltan nation in its negotiations with potential resource extractors, but also provide services to those same resource extractors. I.e., they have a special, financial interest in the development of their lands.

    The people have an interest, too, of course. Many projects – such as Barrick’s mine at Eskay Creek – have provided jobs for the Tahltan people. The Tahltan nation is only so big, however, and so there are only so many positions Tahltans can fill. As I understand it, the Tahltan leaders are promoting development that will create many (*many*) more jobs than the Tahltans will be able to fill.

    One response to this, among those manning the blockade, has been to suggest not that development be halted per se, but that it happen at a slower pace. The leaders of the Tahltan nation seem to have been unresponsive to this apparently reasonable request, presumably because they are interested in the profits they will earn performing collateral work for the resource extractors; and they understand the time value of money!

    Back to your question: “Can this problem be solved?”

    Are you an optimist or a pessimist?…

    I am neither knowledgable, nor experienced enough to address the practicalities of this challenge. However, I think I can say that the *best* solution to this problem will be a governance structure that is better suited to the Tahltan people, their culture, and in particular, their traditional decision-making processes, than the current structure.


    Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 7:41 am | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. […] “If it all occurred at the same time, our land, our wildlife, and our people will be devastated,” said Quock, who speaks for the Iskut elders group Klabona Keepers. Members of the group were arrested in 2005 for blocking a mining road in their territory. […]

  3. […] The Dogwood Initiative has posted a video on Youtube about Shell’s exploration and development in northwestern British Columbia. It makes comparisons between Shell’s poor environmental and human rights track record in Nigeria and potential destruction of what Tahltan people call the Sacred Headwaters. The video shows scenes from the Klappan Valley and arrests of Iskut and Tahltan elders at a blockade in 2005. […]

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