As more and more Indigenous communities become progressively involved in responsible and sustainable resource development in their territories, we should expect less activism and see fewer groups claiming to represent Indigenous interests.
The meaningful reciprocal partnerships being developed by communities, businesses, and industry are creating new expectations on impact, and sustainability. The view of development is changing to balance long-term benefits and impacts.
Unfortunately, some activists and Hollywood celebrities make the false assumption that all Indigenous people are against all resource development. This isn’t the case. According to our polling 65% of Indigenous people support resource development, that’s including forestry activities. While we appreciate the concerns of these activists we are now in a place to properly negotiate with industry and government to engage in responsible development that benefits our communities.
First and most importantly, Indigenous peoples and communities are fully capable of speaking for and advocating for ourselves. Claiming to represent our views adds to the historical wrongs committed against our people.
While well-intentioned, Hollywood has not been invited into the conversation but has chosen to insert themselves into the discussion. And, in claiming to represent Indigenous people, Hollywood fails to understand the poverty many Indigenous communities are experiencing and the critical role that responsible resource development can play in creating investment, jobs, and a better future for current and future generations.
The same issue has been evident at Fairy Creek, the site of a blockade and protests for many months. Again, protestors declared their solidarity with the Pacheedaht First Nations despite both elected and hereditary leadership repeatedly stating they wanted to be left in peace and did not welcome or support the unsolicited involvement or interference by outsiders.
Although forestry has always taken place in our territories, in the past two decades more and more Indigenous communities have exercised their treaty and inherent rights to become better involved and respected in the management of forest resources. We see this as the future of forestry, providing certainty and partnerships for industry and economic and environmental benefits for our communities, workers, and businesses.
Many provinces are moving to provide First Nation communities and professional First Nation foresters such as British Columbia’s Matt Wealick (Ts’ayweyi:lesteleq), MA, Registered Professional Forester (RPF), the opportunity to look at the forests based on wholistic values.
“The forests in Canada can be managed differently and in a way that allows for First Nation values to be protected at the same time, allowing for commercial harvesting to go on,” says Wealick. “However, presuming that is not already part of a considered approach and speaking on behalf of First Nation Communities is not right. First Nation communities are more than capable of speaking for themselves, what is needed now is to be provided the opportunity to do what Indigenous peoples have been doing for centuries – working on and respecting the land and its resources. There is a level of respect missing when people from outside of the community, and in some cases outside of the country, presume to speak for us and assume we can’t advocate for ourselves.”
JP Gladu an Indigenous business leader, member of Sand Point First Nation, and a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has similar frustrations around protestors in Canada misrepresenting Indigenous people. “Many of our communities are forest-based communities, capable of responsibly managing our forests for the better,” said JP. "It absolutely frustrates me seeing these protestors bypass the thousands of years of forestry and stewardship knowledge and experience of Indigenous communities have just to elevate their own narrow agenda.”
We support responsible resource development when it is done to the highest environmental standards and benefits our people. We want to provide a more balanced and informed conversation about Indigenous people and resource development.
The reproduction of this article is free with proper attribution to the Indigenous Resource Network.