(Iskut, B.C.) On June 16, 2006, First Nations grandmothers from the town of Iskut prevented a mining company from driving heavy equipment through a trout spawning stream. The company and the B.C. government have been rushing to establish road access and widen the scope of drilling in the Todagin Wildlife Management Area, located east of Highway 37.
“We will not allow bcMetals to degrade the spawning grounds surrounding the Todagin Plateau in the Sacred Headwaters without the free, prior and informed consent of our people,” said Rhoda Quock, a spokesperson for the Iskut elders group Klabona Keepers.
Quock and Erma (Nole) Bourquin physically blocked bcMetals contractors from driving an excavator, a D6 Cat, and drilling equipment sleds through trout spawning in Coyote creek, a tributary to Eddontenijon Lake and the Iskut River.
“Fish and wildlife are the lifeblood of our people, and we cannot let them be destroyed simply because bcMetals is in a rush,” said Quock.
These events mark the next chapter in a conflict over the shared headwaters of the Nass, Stikine and Skeena Rivers. The mining exploration rush in northwest B.C. has put pressure on government agencies to approve permits as quickly as companies apply for them.
Quock says her organization is not opposed to mining, but that currently, there are too many projects being pushed forward all at once without adequate community consultation. Last summer, numerous elders including several grandmothers were arrested trying to prevent Fortune Minerals from accessing the Headwaters.
“We, the people who use and occupy these lands, will decide which and how many projects are appropriate for our traditional territory,” said Quock. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect our sacred lands.”
The Klabona Keepers decision to stop the bcMetals equipment was supported by the elected Iskut Band Council and the Tahltan Central Council.
Regulations under B.C.’s Water Act forbid working in and around trout bearing waters until after July spawning and rearing has concluded.