First Nations youth who participated in a rally in Williams Lake to protest New Prosperity Mine say they hope their opinions will be noticed. The rally began outside the Cariboo Memorial Complex Wednesday morning.
After traditional smudging, drumming and singing, participants left the complex and proceeded through downtown, led by RCMP in their vehicles. They congregated at Herb Gardner Park where many youth took turns sharing their thoughts.
Eighteen-year-old Taylor Myers from Nemiah Valley said she wants to protect Fish Lake, which would be close to the proposed mine’s infrastructure.
Her sister, Larissa Myers, said she doesn’t like the mine “one bit.”
She also lives in Nemiah Valley and said her community is closer to the mine than other communities.
“We go there to fish and camp,” Taylor said, adding with a chuckle sometimes it’s hard to fish. “Dip net fishing is much easier.”
Holding a sign with the slogan “Save My Culture,” Micole Myers said she lives at Yunesit’in (Stone).
“I’m glad we’re able to come here as a group to raise awareness about New Prosperity Mine. I strongly disagree that they should put up Prosperity Mine,” Micole said.
Melissa Alphonse from Anaham is from the hereditary bloodline of her nation.
“I’m opposed to the mine,” she said. “I’m here to support the youth to feel comfortable to speak up. We sustain ourselves by living off the land and I’d like to continue that so my children can do the same.”
Former chief Ervin Charleyboy is a former chief and speaks in favour of the project and its opportunities for the youth.
Melissa, however, argued Charleyboy does not speak for all First Nations youth in the region.
Peyal Laceese, also from Toosey, was inspired seeing so many youth participate.
“I am part of the youth as well and it’s good to see us coming together and coming forth as a big one,” Peyal said.
Cameron Lulua, also from Nemiah, participated because of the land, he said.
“I believe that this land is not given to us. It’s borrowed for the next generation.”
As the drumming tempo increased and the singing more intensified, the youth, children, elders, chiefs and community members participating in the rally began to assemble for a march through downtown Williams Lake.
“I’m proud and glad to be one of the youth having his voice heard,” Payel added.
Yunesit’in chief Russell Myers Ross expressed pride in the youth and said it’s important they speak for themselves.
“My feeling with Ervin Charleyboy is that he is not a legitimate spokesperson for the Tsilqot’in Nation,” Myers Ross said.
“He brought this up in his election campaign when he ran for chief at Tsi Del Del and he lost on the issue.”
Youth need to be free to express themselves and how they want to see the future, he added.