Recent History – 2001-2003
September 12, 2002
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Members of Kelly Lake First Nation (KLFN) will be stepping up their action as part of a move to break free of the Saulteau First Nations.
KLFN spokesperson Corinne Shearer said Wednesday that talks between the two groups have reached an impasse. The Saulteau offered to negotiate an economic development agreement with the KLFN, but Shearer said that is not good enough.
“That’s not what we want,” she said. “We want them to respect our traditional territory and to recognize that we live up there.
“We said they are now treating us like we were just contractors with no traditional interest and no traditional rights and history. So I guess you could say now that the gloves are off now and the war is on.”
Since last Thursday, a blockade has been up alongside the Old Heritage Highway at the Rat Lake entrance to the Wapiti River, about a 90 minute drive south from Dawson Creek. Shearer said that blockade was symbolic and that the search is on for another location that will have a bigger impact on the Saulteau.
“We will probably be blockading elsewhere, not a main road to block the public, but a road where the First Nations need access to — an area where they work in our back yard,” she said.
She said that the KLFN wants to be recognized as a First Nation in its own right. Currently, it is not recognized by the federal and provincial governments, nor by the Oil and Gas Commission.
“We’ve never lived with the Saulteau band; we’ve always lived in Kelly Lake,” Shearer said. “So we’ve always been an independent band.”
About 160 people live in Kelly Lake of which 91 are of voting age, and of that total, 74 are members of the KLFN. They gained their status in 1994 after tracing their heritage back to the Beaver Indians north of the Peace River. However, they claim a presence in the Kelly Lake area dating back to the 1830s.
“We’ve just lived the Indian way. We just never had a number, but we all have our treaty cards now.”
The rest of the adult population in Kelly Lake consists of about a dozen Metis, a group that settled the area in about 1820, and a handful of Cree who belong to the Kelly Lake Cree Nations.
Shearer expects that the number of KLFN members will grow as their young people reach voting age.
“Our numbers will definitely go up because we all have kids,” Shearer said.
The Saulteau First Nations did not return phone calls Wednesday.