Northern Dene Alliance Gain Support at Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Annual General Meeting

Don Montgrand reads Northern Dene Alliance Statement from the Holding the Line Camp The Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Annual General Meeting was held in Prince Albert on February 17 -18, 2015. Members of the Holding the Line Camp were given an opportunity to explain their position and reason for making a stand for the last 102 days north of LaLoche. Don Montgrand read the statement from the Camp which he wrapped up with, “We should be one working together and I’m asking for the support.  We’re still on the highway over there.” Overall he said they received 100% support from the trappers from all over the north. People gave them encouragement for doing the right thing and told them never to give up. The new President of the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association, Adam Ochares, has promised to pay the Camp a visit in the spring.

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This is the Statement from Holding the Line – Northern Dene Alliance:

Edtlaniteh! We come here with very serious concerns. We come as trappers but we are more than that. WE are the Dene traditional land-users just as many of our Cree neighbours are in their own territory. We and our families all hunt, fish, and pick berries for our own use. We know the land. We know the lakes and rivers. We know the animals, the trees, and other plants and they know us because we are a part of this land. This land has looked after us and all of the generations before us. It has looked after us for all of this time. Now it needs us to look after it. There is not much green land and clean water left.

We have seen big changes, and it is hitting our people hard. There are so many people, young ones and adults, committing suicide. There are so many people sick and dying from cancers. These are not normal ways for our people to die. We see the animals and fish are getting sick and there are not so many anymore. This is not normal for them either.

Back when the government came with the uranium companies to open the Cluff Lake Mine, they did not consult the trappers to get their permission to build Highway #955. The trappers did not agree for them to build that uranium mine. Who gave them the authority to do this? Now that it is closed they have buried mining material but it is sticking up out of the ground.

We are not a stupid people. We have learned what radiation is and what it is doing to us. Nearly all of the people who came in off the land and went to work in that mine have died from cancers. The tar sands have destroyed nearly all of the lands of our Alberta relatives. Their water is so polluted it cannot be used for anything. Those people are dying. The pollution is coming into our waters from acid rain. We see that our water is not as clean as it used to be. The minnows in some of the lakes are dying. The fish have sores and don’t act right.

Now they want more of our land and water again. There are companies looking for oil sands drilling and damaging the land and water, dumping toxic garbage in our landfills. There are other companies drilling for uranium. They found a high grade deposit near Patterson Lake and now more companies are wanting to come and drill on our lands. We have seen the maps of the claims in our area and all over the north. They will soon be everywhere. What the Ministry of Environment and Resources has stated is that each of these exploration permits will have “low environmental impact” on our rights to hunt, fish and trap for food and our traditional land use. They are wrong. All of this traffic, all of this drilling, all of the cut lines, and work camps, and garbage is not low impact. 1 + 1 +1+1+1 +1 x 122 does not add up to low impact to the land, water, plants and animals and not for us who depend on it either.

Our lakes, our beautiful, clear lakes and our green forests are under attack. Patterson Lake, Clearwater Lake, and Athabasca Lake are all connected underground. If one gets contaminated or drained it will affect the others as well.

We are not fooled by their claim that this is not serious because it is just exploration. Now that they have found oil and uranium, the two industries that make the world’s worst contamination, do you really think they plan to leave it alone? The big companies like Cameco and AREVA give a little money to the schools and health services to buy our silence so we won’t point the finger at them when our children are dying too young. We have not given consent and we will not give consent for this to go ahead.

They have been pushing us out of the way for a long time. They have divided us with their boundaries and regulated us with their Land Management Laws. They have opened our territory to out of area stakeholders. They have been pushing us into tighter more crowded towns and trying to get us out of our small communities. Now they even demand we have a Domestic License to cut wood in our home land trying to put even the simple ability to keep our families and Elders warm under their control.

We as traditional land-users, are an active Board in what is called Fur Block N-19. We intend to protect the land, water, animals, trees and other plants in our territory. We do not need any money from these companies. Money is just a pretend thing but we humans are real. We want to keep our land for our future generations. The companies can go back to where they came from and put their money into things that do not hurt the Earth. We do not need jobs that help them to destroy our children’s ability to live healthy on their own home lands.