Monday, February 22, 2010

Okanagan Indian Band Blockades Logging


Okanagan Indian Band’s fight for watershed providing an alternate image of B.C.

Chief Fabian Alexis, band member Dan Wilson, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip have set up a blockade at Browns Creek near Vernon.
By Kathy Michaels
Kelowna.com
Only a day has passed since the Okanagan Indian Band blockaded Tolko’s entrance to the Browns Creek watershed and it’s already become fodder for international news coverage.

A German film crew was at the blockade near Vernon yesterday morning, said Chief Fabian Alexis, from the roadside check-point set up in front of the band’s public works office on Westside Road.

And with hoardes of Olympic media close at hand, it’s suspected more will follow to chronicle the breakdown of negotiations that in some form have taken the better part of the decade.

Concerns over Brown’s Creek are long-standing. Since 2003 the band has been before the courts dealing with it in some form and contending further logging in that area would threaten the viability of the surrounding community’s water supply while damaging archeological sites. In recent years they’ve taken on Tolko Industries. Talks over the chunk of land have consistently been peaceful, but this Saturday they reached a boiling point.

Of the belief Tolko Industries would soon start moving equipment and crews into the watershed band elders called an emergency meeting.

Once there, the 100 in attendance voted unanimously to blockade and by Monday 60 band members were at the site this morning when Tolko representatives came by to assess the situation, said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“Tolko arrived at 9:45 a.m. and their senior officials approached us and singled out Chief Fabian Alexis and myself and asked us if we would allow equipment and crews passage,” he explained. “We said ‘no.’”

The exchange was cordial, said Phillip, adding that it was repeated twice and seemingly scripted. He added it is likely Tolko will be invoking an injunction order sometime this week.

While the Okanagan band insists Tolko Industries doesn’t have a right to log while land claims remain unresolved, a B.C. court ruled Feb. 11 that the Vernon-based logging company could go ahead with cutting in the Browns Creek area following an archeological consultation.

That consultation was less than genuine and the decision was ultimately flawed, contend both Stewart and Alexis —who have gained the support of the Union of British Columbian Indian Chiefs —and that’s why they’ve taken this course of action.

Stewart pointed out that it would be impossible to conduct an archeological investigation with four feet of snow on the ground, but Tolko did it anyway. When they went to bring their new evidence back to the judge, they were told she was on vacation and they’d have to go another route. Blockading, ultimately, is what was chosen.

“The provincial government has made it clear that the financial interests of Tolko are of greater concern to them than the health and safety of the people who derive their drinking and irrigation water from the Browns Creek watershed,” said Chief Alexis.

“When it comes to protecting the watersheds that supply Vernon with its water, government agencies would not hesitate to act, but suddenly when it involves our community, our concerns are discounted.”

It’s an issue that has an impact beyond First Nation people as well, he said, pointing out that here are many non-natives in the region who would be impacted.

Perhaps that’s why those who are set up at a check-point are receiving a fairly warm reception.

As they drove by signs bearing messages like, “Save our water, say no to Tolko” drivers of all races waved, honked and gave thumbs up to those who were taking on check-stop duty.

“There’s been some good suggestions and support from our neighbours who don’t just reside on the reserve,” said Alexis.

Throughout the process, Tolko representatives have said the area of dispute, which has been heavily impacted by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, is a vital timber supply for the company’s sawmill in Armstrong.

At deadline, Tolko and government officials could not be reached.
B.C. band fights logging on site of land claim
CBC News
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is backing efforts by the Okanagan Indian Band to stop logging in its land claims area while the band resolves land title issues.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said he is concerned Tolko Industries will attempt to move equipment and crews into the Brown's Creek watershed on Monday, and said the union will take all steps necessary to protect land rights in the area.
The Okanagan band insists Tolko Industries doesn't have a right to log while land claims remain unresolved, but a B.C. court ruled earlier in February that the Vernon-based logging company can begin cutting in the Browns Creek area, near Vernon.
That prompted elders and band members to pass a motion during an emergency meeting on Saturday night to establish checkpoints to monitor and regulate traffic through the community. The band is concerned that logging in the Browns Creek watershed will threaten their water supply and archeological sites.
Tolko maintains it has developed an appropriate logging plan for the area that includes protecting significant archelogical sites.
'All options on the table'
Chief Fabian Alexis of the Okanagan Indian Band said on Friday that “all options were on the table” in order to protect his community’s water.
"The provincial government has made it clear that the financial interests of Tolko are of greater concern to them than the health and safety of the people who derive their drinking and irrigation water from the Browns Creek watershed,” he said.
“When it comes to protecting the watersheds that supply Vernon with its water, government agencies would not hesitate to act, but suddenly when it involves our community, our concerns are discounted. This systemic racism will not stand,” said Alexis.
"Title over these forest lands is something that is before the courts, therefore for the provincial government to allow as much clear-cut logging as possible around our reserve before title reverts to us is not only utterly cynical, it is in this instance thoroughly irresponsible,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/02/22/bc-okanagan-tolko-logging-land-claim.html#ixzz0gJf2zoz7

Vernon Morning Star: Band launches Browns Creek Blockade:
http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/vernonmorningstar/news/84983602.html
Urgent Media Advisory: Okanagan Indian Band Blockades Tolko's logging operation to protect their watershed!
Today
URGENT MEDIA ADVISORY

February 22, 2010
Okanagan Indian Band began blockade at 7:00 am

Okanagan Nation Territory, Vernon – Please be advised that in response to threats from Tolko to commence logging of the watershed that supplies the majority of the 1,800 residents of the Okanagan Indian Band with their drinking water, the band membership will be commencing a protective blockade of the watershed starting at 7:00 a.m. Monday, February 22nd at the Okanagan campsite located near Bouleau Lake.

The media are welcome to attend however due to the icy winter road conditions a 4x4 vehicle is required to reach the camp. Media needing a ride can arrange one by contacting the Okanagan Indian Band Territorial Stewardship Office at (250) 542-7132.

Anyone attending the camp is advised to dress warmly with proper winter attire as temperatures will likely be below freezing even during the day.

Under the authority of the Okanagan Nation, a parking area will be designated. Parking will be free to the media, OKIB members and supporters but all forestry vehicles (both corporate and ministry) will be charged a parking fee of $10 per day.

All proceeds from the parking fee will go to the Okanagan Indian Band’s save the watershed fund. Please note that title to the area is a matter that is presently before the courts and that the Crown has been unable to produce any documentation showing acquisition of title from the Okanagan Nation.
For more information please contact:
Chief Fabian Alexis cell (250) 306-2838, phone (250) 542-4328
Sherry Louis
Executive Assistant
Okanagan Indian Band
12420 Westside Road,
Vernon, BC, V1H 2A4
okibcouncil@okanagan.org
250.542.4328 (t)
250.542.4990 (f)
Articles Google News
BC band fights logging on site of land claim
CBC.ca - ‎5 hours ago‎
The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is backing efforts by the Okanagan Indian Band to stop logging in its land claims area while the band resolves ...
Blockade to remain, Tolko to go to court
Castanet.net - Elisha Dacey - ‎2 hours ago‎
Chief Fabian Alexis of the Okanagan Indian Band says the current blockade near the Brown's Creek Watershed will remain while ...
WEB FIRST: Band launches Browns Creek blockade
Vernon Morning Star - Vernon Morning Star - ‎4 hours ago‎
Okanagan Indian Band members have taken action against logging on the west side of Okanagan Lake. As of 7 am Monday, a blockade was established near Bouleau ...
OKIB Blockade Up Monday Morning
CKFR - ‎5 hours ago‎
The Okanagan Indian Band is following up on a threat to make it difficult for Tolko to begin logging in the Browns Creek Watershed. ...
Blockade goes up over Brown's Creek
Castanet.net - ‎7 hours ago‎
by Castanet Staff - Story: 52874 The Okanagan Indian Band has followed through with its threat to blockade the Okanagan campsite near Bouleau Lake. ...
British Columbia: Okanagan Nation Warns "All Options on Table" in Looming ...
Pacific Free Press - ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
by Okanagan Nation In response to the imminent threat of logging within the watershed that supplies the Okanagan Indian Band with much of its drinking water ...
UBCIC Supports Okanagan Indian Band in Browns Creek Faceoff
Market Wire (press release) - ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
VANCOUVER, BC, PRESS RELEASE--(Marketwire - Feb. 21, 2010) - Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs stated ...
Letter of Support: Browns Creek Watershed Protection
PR-USA.net (press release) - Chief Alexis - ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
I am writing in support of the courageous stand you, your council and your community are taking in defense of your water supply. ...
Band considers forestry blockade
Vernon Morning Star - Richard Rolke, Vernon Morning Star - ‎Feb 20, 2010‎
Members of the Okanagan Indian Band held a checkpoint on Westside Road Saturday to look for Tolko vehicles, ...

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