MacLeod Lake, B.C.- On Monday June 4th, 2012 more than a dozen RCMP Officers and Canine Unit moved in to remove a blockade set up by the Tsek'ehne Nation Elders in front of the MacLeod Lake Band Office and Natural Resource building.
The Elders reached out to the Band membership for volunteers to assist them in voicing their concerns over the Corporate intrusion on their territories. Their goal is transparency and accountability from their elected Band Chief and Council. The Tsek'ehne people found out about gold and copper mine development through the media. Also the band has signed a protocol agreement with the Enbridge Corporation for the Northern Gateway Pipeline. There is also proposed fracking for gas on their territories. None of which has been discussed with the community members.
"The Elders have said enough, they are worried about losing their way of life. There will be nothing left for the children in the future”, says Elder Harry Chingee. "Our lifestyle depends on the land, if it is destroyed then we have nothing."
The Band Office received an injunction order to remove the blockade shortly after the blockaders shut down the administration building on May 24, 2012. The band council refused invitations to talk with the peaceful protesters and instead chose enforcement of the injunction which led to 18 members being charged, including six elders.
Police handcuffed and arrested 5 protesters and gave the Elders orders to appear in court at 2 p.m. the same day in Prince George. Among the people being charged is a young lady who has Down Syndrome, Amber Chingee. Amber is a happy and cheerful person who has a bright demeanour, but has proven to have a strong will and determination to stand up for the land. She refused to leave the blockade despite two officers trying to coax her away. Only when one of the respected warriors of the Nation talked to Amber, did she leave.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7W7mKx65_4&feature=youtu.be
Village Chief Derek Orr had requested the court allow the council to banish two members from entering the village. The judge presiding over the hearings disallowed the banishment. When approached and asked why his council was charging their Elders? Orr stated that they were not charging the Elders, it is the courts doing so. When asked if it was the council who ordered the injunction and involved the courts in this affair, Orr stated yes. Orr then agreed to an interview after the court hearing but left the court room early and could not be found for an interview.
Band manager, Adelia Solonas refused an interview but did say there will be a press release coming out soon. She then went onto say "this is an internal affair and will be dealt with internally." She was then asked why the RCMP are involved if it is an internal affair? She refused to answer this repeated question stating that she will not comment.
After the court hearing and the protesters were released from jail the group with their supporters met at a local restaurant. Thus the Tsek'kahne Unity Movement was born. Out walked a determined group of individuals wanting nothing more than to be consulted as to what happens on their territories. Nothing more, nothing less. "Invitations to the Chief and Council to talk are still being sent", says spokesperson Justin Chingee.
This has been one of a number of blockades that have gone up in the resource rich northern half of British Columbia. With the longest being six months with the Gitxsan Unity Movement's blockade of the Gitxsan Treaty Office over their proposed development of business on the territories without consultation with the Gitxsan people.
"It is going to be a long hot summer in Indian country!" stated Justin Chingee as he was handcuffed and led into the RCMP paddy wagon.