[B.C. Mining] ‘To us, that border doesn’t exist’ – by Nathan Venderklippe (Globe and Mail – April 19, 2024)


Alaska Indigenous groups want a say in B.C. mining projects they fear could hurt their livelihoods. A border stands in the way – but they hope a Canadian court ruling strengthens the case for ignoring it

Eulachon grease meets the tongue with a marine burn, a bracing tang extracted by fermenting great numbers of the smelt-like fish, then simmering and breaking them apart. The process liberates the fish’s oil, which historically formed a kind of currency among the Indigenous nations of the Pacific Northwest, who traded it as a valuable source of fat.

Today, those still able to find it in southeast Alaska apply it as a condiment to boiled potatoes, herring eggs or kajumps, a fish soup. “That’s real gold there,” Louie Wagner says, as he eyes a jar of the grease he keeps frozen, its contents a light tawny yellow. “Gold you can eat.”

There is other gold nearby, too, its lustre buried not far away, although it lies inside the bounds of another country. In the mountains where the edge of Canada shoulders up against the verdant coastal finger of southeast Alaska, the mining industry has spent years working to bring new development to northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle, an area whose mineral wealth the province estimates at $1.28-trillion.

Mr. Wagner is more concerned with the eulachon, which he has, since childhood, harvested from the mouth of the Unuk River, a fast-moving waterway that tumbles 130 kilometres down from the glaciated peaks of northwestern B.C. to Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska.

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