There’s a lot about this incredible province I know about, and still so much to learn. And in the Peace River region much of that will be lost forever if the project continues. Places like Rocky Mountain Fort, the oldest fur trade post in British Columbia that dates back to 1793 are going to be flooded.
Since mid December, campers have been set up at the site of the historic trading post and they don’t intend to leave. It is located on Crown land aka public land. A survival trailer was brought into the site and Treaty 8 First Nations have been staying along with other locals fighting to stop the construction of the dam.
The site is not just significant to the trading history of the region, but to local First Nations as well – the entire valley is a wealth of cultural and archaeological treasures,not that the province has been very interested in marking it. There’s very little to tell anyone where or how to get to the site and the province has shown no interest in protecting it – of course. Long story short, this site is scheduled to be logged this week, and on New Years Eve, when the world was celebrating or relaxing, a rather unofficial looking eviction notice was posted – the first photo at the top of this blog post.
A photo of that notice quickly made its way to me and I immediately posted it to Twitter,including BC Hydro’s twitter account in that tweet. How typical for any kind of action like this to be done in a cowardly manner, under cover of a major distraction, with 24 hours notice of intention to remove. Not unlike how government often unloads terrible news late on a Friday afternoon – particularly on long weekends, because three days is all it takes for people to forget and the media to move on.
But I digress.
The note was posted and quickly shared. And there was no eviction New Years Day, but security did show up and stop campers from going onto a bridge moved into the area to facilitate their work camp. They also gave the campers verbal notice, but Treaty 8 campers posted No Trespassing signs of their own.
I spoke with one of the campers who is only there this time for a few days, and she told me she was going to do a blog post on her experience there, and why this matters. When she sent it to me, I felt her words and pain truly as my own. I know what this area is like… was like before all this began. It hurts to look at these before and after photos. It’s just all wrong. And it hurt me to read many of this courageous,brilliantly talented young woman’s words just the same:
The camp was about reclaiming our right as young Indigenous people to be in our territory, in this Peace River Valley, tucked far into the North East corner of British Columbia. We did not want the proposed Site C Hydro Dam then, we do not want it now.
“No I don’t remember,” Emily replied.
We stood on the soft snow on our way back to camp. We had just put a sign up to notify Hydro workers that this was Treaty 8 Territory and they were trespassing.
“He told us about how when he was young he remembers camping somewhere while they were travelling by horse. At night they heard weeping coming from the forest around them and they didn’t know who it was,” I said, as I stopped to watch snow gently fall from the branches of a nearby spruce tree.
“He said that when they went back to that spot again, maybe a year or so later, that forest was gone. It had been cleared for a road. It was the forest crying because it knew what was coming.”
“Yeah. Yeah it is.” I echoed her words.
We had just left where BC Hydro started to clear on the West side of the Moberly River. We walked over to the crude bridge that they had built to cross the frozen river with their equipment. I had to see it up close for my own eyes and I had to lay an offering of tobacco for the land, for its suffering and loss.
I know a lot of people don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It’s a dam, we need it, it’s clean energy after all, all you green tree huggers ought to love that, right? No.
Because it’s not just wrong for all these very right reasons – this land is truly one of the most beautiful, wild and free places left. The Peace river has even been designated a Heritage river under the BC Parks and Conservation own website- which apparently, means absolutely nothing. Looks good on the BC government website, but not good enough to prevent flooding more of the valley.
It’s wrong because there is no need for this dam. It’s wrong because it’s being rammed through despite a very long list of opponents who have asked the province to stand down and send it to the BC Utilities Commission for the review it never had. Even the BC Union of Municipalities – representatives from every city in the province- called for a halt. But Victoria has deaf ears and eyes that are wide shut.
The Liberal government was so intent on pushing this project through,it exempted it from review from the BC Utilities Commission,the agency deemed with reviewing all projects to ensure they are in the best interests of Hydro ratepayers and the province:
Yet while Site C was exempted… the overdue repairs to the WAC Bennett dam still has to go through that oversight process, and rightly so,despite the blatant hypocrisy.
I leave everyone at the bridge,and walk into the lost forest. .The tears are welling up in my eyes, I see, I feel how real this is and I am filled with a great sorrow. It is a sorrow your spirit feels, and a part of me wants to break down and sob into the earth. Let my tears mix with the soil. But a part of me says that doing so is acceptance of what they are doing, and what they are doing must stop.
…as I talk, I watch the shock of the Native Lone Rangers face and he moves slowly behind the White man.
I don’t know if that shock is that I am there or that he feels that he is on the wrong sideand wants to hide. I feel sad for him, because I know that work is work and it puts food on the tables of our people. But for how long? Until the job lasts and then what? Our children and great grandchildren will feel the ramifications of these actions. I think of my Asu’s (grandma) words about how the Dreamers spoke about hard times to come and how he feels sorry for us that will be alive. What if that is preventable to some measure? This is not just about us and hydro and being right or wrong… it’s about the future we are stealing for those who come after us.
How deeply this resonated with me, I can’t say. I know all of my long time readers will recognize that feeling, that same sorrow and sentiment in so many things I’ve written.That connection to the land, the need to do things right because sometimes we only get one chance…
As of this blog post, the campers have still not been evicted. More signs have been posted stating no cutting allowed – hope to have more of those shortly. And as I write, I can’t help but think of the similarities between this and Shawnigan Lake, a story I’ll be writing about next week.
I can’t help but wonder whose backyard will be the next target when someone in Victoria wants to leave a legacy. Who will stand up for you, and with you, then?