Recent History – 2001-2003
Sept. 9, 2002
By Mark Nielsen
Daily News Staff
Kelly Lake First Nation (KLFN) members have set up a blockade at the Rat Lake entrance to the Wapiti River, about 120 kilometres south of Dawson Creek, as part of a conflict with the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations.
“It’s about respect,” said KLFN land use consultant Robin Paquette. “It’s not about industry, it’s not about government, it’s about First Nations respecting other First Nations’ traditional lands and Saulteau and West Moberly are infringing on Kelly Lake’s traditional areas.”
The KLFN wants to break away from Saulteau and West Moberly and be recognized in their own right by the federal and provincial governments and to have a territory recognized as their own. Although their numbers have benefited the Saulteau and West Moberly, Paquette said that status Indians living in Kelly Lake have received precious little in return.
“The bottom line about Saulteau and West Moberly is they survive through government funding on a per capita basis and they’re using these people,” he said in reference to band members living in Kelly Lake. “But the fact remains that these people [Kelly Lake] have never taken any benefits.”
A major issue is the closure of the Kelly Lake Elementary School. Children in the community must now travel by bus to Hythe, a one-hour trip, something that Paquette said could have been prevented if there had been adequate support from Saulteau and West Moberly.
Paquette said the KLFN wants the Saulteau and West Moberly to pass resolutions that will recognize status Indians living in Kelly Lake as members of the KLFN and not as members of their own bands. At the least, he wants them to recognize KLFN territory and to properly consult with the band.
Although called a peaceful information booth, Paquette warned that if Saulteau and West Moberly refuse to come to the table, it will turn into a blockade against members of those two bands.
“If they don’t want to sit down, we’re going to eventually block the whole works,” Paquette said. “We’re going to tell them to stay out completely.”
Oil and gas workers, loggers and others who are not members of Saulteau and West Moberly would still be allowed through, Paquette said.
The camp has been in place since Thursday and on Friday, KLFN Chief Claire Gauthier met with band council members for Saulteau and West Moberly on Friday. Gauthier told those gathered at the camp late Friday afternoon that little progress was made other than that a further meeting was scheduled for Monday.
Oil and Gas Commissioner (OGC) Derek Doyle also visited the camp, and said he would be willing to talk with Saulteau and West Moberly about the issue. However, he stressed that the OGC is obligated to consulted only through the recognized band councils.