The moment you step onto Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc land in southern British Columbia, according to Chief Ron Ignace, you are a beggar. As an outsider, you have no rights and you’ve strayed away from your home and family. You are considered a poor person, he tells National Observer, and you are beholden to the First Nations on whose territory you stand.
His message takes aim at anyone who wants to do business or travel on his nation’s land, be they tourists, government, companies, fishers, or boaters.
“The days of colonial authoritarianism are over,” he says. “It’s time for Canada to recognize that we are nations, as nations we have rights to our land, and if we are approached honourably, we can sit down and come to a fair and just conclusion.”
It’s precisely what his community has done, he explains, with KGHM Ajax Mining Inc.’s proposal to build a gaping open pit gold and copper mine on their territory, near a sacred cultural site called Pípsell.
The Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc rejected the project last month, after what Ignace calls a “groundbreaking” development in the way First Nations handle resource extraction projects on their land.
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