The president of an exploration company said Monday he will not respect an eviction notice issued to him from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI). The First Nation, located 600 km northwest of Thunder Bay, said God's Lake Resources is operating on land it considers sacred.
God's Lake president Ed Ludwig said he has tried to communicate with KI, but the response has always been riddled with "religion, rhetoric and bureaucracy."
Ludwig said he wants proof of where burials are located, before stopping or even altering his search for gold.
"We do want them to locate them with the proper respect given," he said.
"If my ancestors were buried there, I think I would ask the same, but within a time frame."
A spokesperson for KI said the tone of Ludwig's comments hardly indicates someone who is seeking a respectful relationship. Cutfeet said requests to simply point out burial sites deny the complexity of properly identifying graves.
"The community does not really have the resources to speed along the identification of those sites at somebody else's wishes," he said.
The First Nation said it could take up to five years to properly map the area and create a land use plan.
Ludwig said he's willing to give KI time — but only until winter, when he intends to return to work his claim.
First Nation says provincial government at fault
Cutfeet, whose grandfather and uncle are among the unidentified graves at the historic site, said it takes more than $1,000 dollars to charter a plane from KI to map the area and identify places of cultural or spiritual significance. The land in question is more than 100 km from the First Nation.
In an earlier interview with the CBC, Cutfeet said the province has failed in its duty to consult the First Nation about mining development.
The Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, said he can't respond directly to concerns raised about mining activity on First Nations burial grounds. He says election rules limit what he can say as minister.
"This is something that needs to be determined by my constituents and, further down the line, by the premier. But what I can tell you is that we have great respect for aboriginal and treaty rights.