First Nations drummed and carried placards protesting the New Prosperity Mine as they entered the opening of  the environmental assessment panel hearings in Williams Lake Monday.

First Nations drummed and carried placards protesting the New Prosperity Mine as they entered the opening of the environmental assessment panel hearings in Williams Lake Monday.

First Nations hold rally at start of New Prosperity hearings

Prior to the start of the New Prosperity mine environmental assessment panel hearing Monday, First Nations leaders held a rally.

  • Jul. 22, 2013 1:00 p.m.

Tara Sprickerhoff

Tribune Staff Writer

Prior to the start of the New Prosperity mine environmental assessment panel hearing Monday, First Nations leaders held a drum circle and rally for those opposed to the New Prosperity mine.

First Nations and non-First Nations alike attended the event, scheduled for 11 a.m.

“This morning is just trying to gather people and show that we are united and we have our cause going into the panel hearings,” said Chief Russell Myers Ross of the Yunesit’in (Stone) First Nation who spoke at the event.

“Our message for the pane hearings is still to say no to the project.

“It’s still a matter of justice,” he said.

The New Prosperity mine project proposes to preserve Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), whereas the original plan would have drained the lake to make way for a tailings pond.

Despite the change, many First Nations in the area remain strongly opposed to Taseko’s mine.

“Today is just a get together. A ceremony for something that we feel shouldn’t be happening for a second round. It’s certainly a disappointment. We have no choice but to be involved,” said Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley) First Nations.

“We really feel that a lot of our questions, concerns and issues haven’t been addressed, and these hearings are going to be a big part of that, so here we want to get together as people of the land: First Nations, Xeni Gwet’in, Tsilhqot’in, non-First Nations,” he continued.

Opening the ceremony, Cecil Grinder spoke of the “battle” to take place during the upcoming days.

“It’s important that we stand together. It’s important that you recognize what is going on in your back yards. It’s important that we are here,” he said.

Following his speech, Grinder led a crowded group of drummers in a Tsilhqot’in warrior song, as well as taught a new song Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) to sing at the panel hearing.

Everyone at the event also participated in a Friendship dance, where participants joined in a circle that stretched far around the stage in Boitanio Park.

Following the circle and lunch, various speakers took to the stage.

“We have got to bury this proposal once and for all,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Bands. “It really lifts my heart to know there are so many different groups here speaking with one heart and one mind.”

Phillip called the New Prosperity project “destructive” and “devastating,” saying that the proposal would “completely obliterate the indigenous people’s land.”

“We are all here to say one thing and that one thing is no. Absolutely no way are we going to allow this proposal to be approved,” Phillips said, as the crowd responded with cheers and shouts of “no way.”

Grand Chief Edward John, currently the North American representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues also spoke at the event, emphasizing “free, prior and informed consent” for projects using First Nation lands.

Members of the Council of Canadians, who attended, also echoed this sentiment, saying the land to be used for New Prosperity is First Nations land that has never been recognized as such.

Following the speeches at Boitanio Park, the group marched to the opening of the panel in the Gibraltar Room.