Four months after being granted its 1,750 kilometre land title, the Tsilhqot’in are flexing their muscles with the raising of a totem pole at Fish Lake, the lake at the heart of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine project.
“The pole will represent protection of the area against the likes of Taseko Mines,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG tribal chair.
He was travelling with the totem pole, which is a gift from the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) First Nation and carved by renowned master carver Tim Paul.
Fish Lake is located on Crown land adjacent to the title area, however, it falls within the rights area to hunt and trap birds and animals and to trade skins and pelts.
“We have our own permission,” Alphonse said of the decision to place the totem pole. “We only need to ask the Tsilhqot’in people.”
Taseko Mines is four years into a 25-year mining lease for the proposed mine which the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said is a high status of interest in the land.
“We know that the First Nations have rights in the area, we’ve acknowledged that in our plan and we will respect them.”
The totem pole will be included in that acknowledgement, along with the archeology around Fish Lake, Battison said, explaining the company spent $750,000 on a “significant” archeology study that it has turned over to the TNG. An event to mark the arrival of the pole will take place Friday, Oct. 3 at the Coast Fraser Hotel at 8 a.m. before the pole travels to Fish Lake.
Saturday’s ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at Fish Lake. An earlier announcement the pole raising would coincide with the announcement of a new Dasiqox Tribal Park in the area should not have happened, Alphonse said.
“Nothing has been finalized. Friends of Nemiah Valley jumped the gun.”
The TNG want to designate areas for parks or special management zones, and Alphonse guaranteed there are going to be changes, but said the First Nations want to engage the locals, ranchers, businesses that are working out there and get their input.