Fresh sacred water collected from Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) will be used at a gathering outside the B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver on World Water Day, March 22 to protest an exploratory drilling permit.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation is applying to the Supreme Court of Canada to halt drilling near the lake for Taseko Mine Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine 185 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.
On March 1, the Tsilhqot’in Nations’ appeal in the BC Court of Appeal was dismissed.
To augment the March 22 court date, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua said the Nation is asking supporters to gather outside the court house at 8:30 a.m. where there will be a special gathering with drumming and songs.
On Friday, March 16, Lulua, along with his band manager Dalton Baptiste and the Nation’s cultural ambassador Peyal Laceese visited Teztan Biny, touching down in a helicopter on its frozen surface.
“We went there ask to ask permission, to give thanks to our ancestors who live there and have fought to keep that place how it is today and how it will be seven generations from now,” Lulua said. “Back in the day it was their duty and it is our duty now to carry that responsibility.”
To collect the water from Teztan Biny, they made a hole in the ice, which Lulua said was a foot and a half thick. They also gathered some other things from the area for the World Water Day events.
“We want to do things in the right way,” Lulua said. “We always ask permission from the land. One of the sayings we go by is ‘if you take care of the land it will take care of you.’ We always gather strength and do ceremonies to remember where we come from.”
Lulua said the Nation is once again fighting for their Aboriginal rights.
“We are the only Indigenous people in Canada who have title and rights and we have rights there at Teztan Biny. The exploration permit will dig up an area to create 70 kilometres of roads and 122 test pits,” he said. “They will go into our sacred grounds, our burial sites, for no reason. That mine is rejected at the federal level two times and it absolutely cannot go ahead.”
The drilling permit was issued by the outgoing B.C. Liberal Government in 2017 for the purpose of advancing Taseko’s New Prosperity mine proposal.
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is now applying to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal judgment, arguing the area in which the extensive drilling permit has been issued is a site of proven Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and trap and adjacent to an area of proven and recognized Aboriginal title.
In a press release the Tsilhqot’in Nations noted Taseko Mines Ltd. has informed the Tŝilhqot’in they intend to begin the drilling program on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.
“The Tŝilhqot’in have requested that the company hold off on their work until the injunction hearing is heard on March 22. To date the company has refused to stand down,” the press release stated.
When contacted by the Tribune, Taseko Mines Ltd. declined comment.
Lulua said there will also be an evening World Water Day gathering on March 22 in Vancouver the Nation will be hosting.
The location of the evening gathering will be announced at a later date on Facebook.