Upholding our way of life. #HeiltsukStrong

On Friday, January 29, Heiltsuk Hemas (hereditary chiefs) and elected tribal council welcome a delegation from the Province including Premier Christy Clark.

This visit marks the signing of the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) Land Use Order, which will also be formally announced in Vancouver next Monday with other First Nations and stakeholder representatives in attendance.

In 2009, Heiltsuk signed the Reconciliation Protocol Agreement (RPA) with the Province of BC. This RPA outlined a joint commitment to collaboration and coordination around land use decision-making and revenue sharing.

The GBR Land Use Order being signed now is intended to build on the original RPA. Specifically, the Order maps a path for implementing ecosystem-based management and ensuring protection for human wellbeing, and cultural and natural values.

Heiltsuk are pleased with many aspects of the Order, and we uplift our representatives from HIRMD who have undertaken critical work to ensure our voices are represented in the negotiations.

Highlights include:

  • $150,000 in Targeted Training Funds (Forestry) over the next 3 years
    •Re-charting Process to ensure Heiltsuk Coastal Forest Products (HCFP) gains access to operating areas with viable wood fiber
    •New Forest Tenure to increase HCFP’s operations by an additional 235,000 m3
    •Tenure Restructure to enable better forest management for HCFP
    •50,000 m3 Forest License to help complete the Bighouse
    •Carbon Credits – increase in ownership of production and sales, and for a longer time period (2035)

However, Heiltsuk are aware that this announcement does not signal the end of our work. Our people have been here for tens of thousands of years, practising our laws and customs that outline our relationship to our territory and our responsibility to steward it. We will be here for tens of thousands of years to come.

Agreeing on a process and a framework is important. Going forward, it is important to recognize that the burden of implementation and monitoring for the Order will fall disproportionately on the Indigenous peoples – like Heiltsuk – who live on the front lines, and whose lives and livelihoods depend on the integrity of our lands and waters.

There is still significant work to be done to build capacity in our communities; explore sustainable development that addresses poverty issues while protecting our natural assets; enforce protections for cultural values; and ensure that Heiltsuk people and Heiltsuk values are fully and meaningfully represented throughout the implementation and evaluation of the work we celebrate today.

We are grateful for a step down the right path. It is the first of many miles yet to walk.

To our Heiltsuk community, our leadership lifts you up as our source of strength and guidance in this work. You are at the heart of all the progress we make.

For more information on the GBR Land Use Orders, please see the fact sheet distributed to each household or take advantage of HIRMD’s open door policy.

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