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Keeping the Peace - A Stake In Solidarity - Halting Site C Dam

Volume 30, Issue 10,11 & 12, December 21, 2016

Monica Nelson, Victoria

Chief Roland Wilson (West Moberly) and Chief Lynette Tsakoza (Prophet River)

     On December 12th, (the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), Canadian Catholics celebrate the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. The message for this year is a prayer dedicated to the family, including the broader meaning of our human family, as being one of the Creator’s “greatest blessings.”
     This type of connectedness is something the farmers of the Peace River Valley live out each day. Together with the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, they struggle in the fight to save this valley from the mass destruction of its environment, precious animal corridors, historical sites and a multitude of other disasters Site C will bring about. What happens in this area will have an impact on people across the province for this is not solely a local issue.
     Standing together, this community has endured years of uncertainty. Government officials and planners have scoured the land, pushing forward a mega project that has consistently been without a viable market and that would destroy the last 20 percent of sustainable Treaty 8 territory, as well as agricultural land with the potential to feed a million people (yes, you read that correctly).
     If we look closely at our own lives, how have we as individuals lived in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, in particular within our own province, as devastating mega projects like the dam and others are endorsed at the expense of violating Indigenous Rights? We need to ask ourselves this question if our prayers of unity are to be more than superficial.
Have we taken the time to deeply listen to the wisdom and concerns of First Nation Elders and dedicated leaders like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip? Do we know or understand the issues that exist and why they caused the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to decline the invitation to participate in the Black Rod Ceremony? 
     Turning down an invitation to participate in the Royal Visit with Prince William and Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon this last September, was not an easy decision to have made. Would we have the courage and conviction to do the same and are we willing to align ourselves with Indigenous Peoples on a similar occasion?
     Imagine how the people most directly impacted by Site C are feeling right now. First Nations’ communities and neighbouring farmers will be forced to leave their homes and way of life while across our television screens such projects are promoted as an end to our economic shortcomings. This is a hard position to be standing in, especially when you know that viable and less costly and destructive alternatives exist but are being ignored.
     For the farmers, generations of working and living on the land will be lost. For the First Nations of the area, Site C will destroy their way of life and sacred spaces that have existed from the time of their first ancestors. Neither group will be at peace in a home and job in the city; there is no viable mediation between living with the land to being reduced to just occupying a space upon it.
     Despite the project currently being fought in the courts (the First Nations have a valid treaty for the area and there are other issues groups are contesting) construction of the dam began this year with a vengeance and as of December 16th, BC Hydro will expropriate Ken and Arlene Boon’s farmhouse and 130 hectares of their land. The couple have made the courageous decision not to sign over their property. Like the Holy Family we celebrate during this season, their future is now an unknown.
     In solidarity with the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations, the Yellow Stake Campaign began last month on the Boon farm. All of the funds raised (which come with a tax receipt) will go directly to the First Nations' court challenge to protect the Peace River Valley. If you are looking for an easy way to get involved in the struggle ahead, you might consider buying a stake or doing so with some friends or group members to make this open ‘stakement’ about the Site C project. And may those simple yellow sticks carry our prayers in solidarity to the Great Creator as we seek to live out this year's message, to “live intimately and respectfully with all people and in all Creation.”