B.C. First Nation sets up checkpoints following confrontations between protesters and forestry workers
Huu-ay-aht First Nations asking visitors to respect sacred principles, safe forestry operations
The Huu-ay-aht First Nations has set up two checkpoints at the entrance to its territory, traditionally called hahuuli, to protect logging operations in Huu-ay-aht territory.
This comes amid ongoing tensions between protesters and forestry workers on Vancouver Island.
Video footage from an incident last week shows an altercation between forestry workers working for Tree Farm Licence 44 LP and protesters who have formed blockades in the area in an attempt to prevent old-growth trees from being logged.
That incident led to the shutdown of logging operations and a third-party investigation.
Huu-ay-aht Coun. John Jack said these access restrictions were put in place primarily in response to an incident on May 6, when a protester drove through safety barriers and into an active logging area.
The checkpoints are set up coming into the region from the south island and another coming from Port Alberni.
According to a news release from the Huu-ay-aht, motorists have been generally supportive and understanding.
"They are not blockades per se, but they are checkpoints where individuals are stationed to let drivers know, and any travelers know, of the requirements we have of them and their behaviour in regards to coming into our hahuuli," Jack told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow.
Those requirements, Jack said, are based on three sacred Huu-ay-aht principles: ʔiisaak, which means utmost respect, ʔuuʔałuk, which has to do with taking care in terms of business and elected government and care for present and future generations, and Hišuk ma c̕awak, which means everything is connected.
"It's the idea that in both the human world and the natural world, there are a myriad of relationships that are interconnected, interdependent and reciprocal, and that while we may not completely understand and comprehend all of those connections, we should actively appreciate them," Jack explained.
"People who violate our sacred principles are not welcome in our ḥahuułi," said Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters).
"We expect people to respect what we are asking of them as this is our land and it is our responsibility to ensure people here are safe."
Safety is a primary concern for the Huu-ay-aht, as protesters continue to access active logging areas.
Respect for the Huu-ay-aht's decision-making processes under self-government are also of great importance.
"These are access restrictions that are governing only our territory, not necessarily the entirety of [Tree Farm Licence 44 LP]," Jack said.
"We need people to understand that we're making our decisions in a legitimate treaty-based and self-governing way, that we do have processes in place to take into consideration all of the concerns expressed by our people, by our elected leaders, by hereditary leaders as well."
To hear John Jack's interview on CBC's All Points West, tap here:
With files from All Points West