Wilkw / k ̓ wa’x̱ tłu:
In a trailblazing move towards improved relationships between Indigenous peoples in British Columbia and the forestry industry, several large forestry companies have agreed for the first time to abide by Nanwakolas Council First Nations’ traditional laws governing the stewardship of wilkw/ k ̓ wa’x̱ tłu (large cultural cedar trees) in their territories.
Nanwakolas Council has worked with the forestry industry for many years to help them better understand how the First Nations make resource management decisions, and in turn to understand the economic and other impacts on forestry activities of complying with Nanwakolas First Nations’ laws. As a result of those discussions, Western Forest Products Inc. and Interfor Corporation have signed up to implement Nanwakolas Council’s Large Cultural Cedar Operational Protocol, and a number of other major forestry companies and BC Timber Sales have indicated their intention to follow suit in the coming weeks.
The Protocol sets out policies and procedures that must be followed by anyone applying for permits to harvest timber and carrying out forestry activities in Nanwakolas First Nations’ territories. “This commitment by these companies to follow Nanwakolas First Nations’ laws represents fundamental change for the better, for everyone,” says Nanwakolas Council President Dallas Smith. “The Protocol supports culturally important activities and increased environmental integrity, but not at the cost of economic certainty. Compliance with it will make things better not only for our communities, but regionally and for the province as a whole.”
Large, high quality red and yellow cedar trees have been used extensively for cultural practices such as carving dugout canoes, totem poles and traditional buildings since time beyond memory, but after more than a century of large-scale logging of old-growth trees in their territories, the remaining large cedar trees in the Nanwakolas First Nations’ territories are at serious risk, and with them, the cultural health and wellbeing of the Nations. “Cedar is a foundation of our culture,” observes Wei Wai Kum First Nation Chief Chris Roberts. “From our bighouse and canoe construction, to the work of our world-renowned artisans, cedar must play a role in our lives going forward. I’m proud that we have taken this step to help ensure that we manage this vital resource for these purposes, not simply lumber.”
Retaining these large and ancient trees as part of forestry management practices has been a long- standing goal of the Nanwakolas First Nations. “Since the early 1990’s, our roadblock in the Tsitika Valley and court case with MacMillan Bloedel and BC, we have known that we need the contemporary cultural value of cedar incorporated into management practices. This is a crucial step in that direction,” says Chief John Smith of the Tlowitsis Nation.
“As First Nations we must proactively bring forward issues like this that are important to our communities,” says K’ómoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel. The process was not easy, says Dallas Smith. “Negotiations were very tough. But as Chief Rempel says, in healthy relationships you can have challenging discussions, and find good solutions that work for everyone.” The relationship will also help progress on other aspects of forestry management, adds Smith: “Having this kind of relationship means that going forward, everyone will have a better understanding of our decisions about related forestry issues such as old-growth stewardship, bear den protection, habitat restoration, and stewardship of salmon populations.”
“The Large Cultural Cedar Declaration reflects analysis and multi-generational planning in the Nanwakolas territories supporting ongoing social, economic and cultural use. We look forward to its joint implementation through our shared commitment to promote healthy and resilient forests for the long-term, including sustainable access to the forest profile,” said Shannon Janzen, Vice President, Partnerships and Sustainability and Chief Forester, Western Forest Products. “We value our relationship with the Nanwakolas Council and its member Nations and will continue to work together to build our partnership through trust, collaboration and continuous learning.”
It is a relationship that Interfor has also been seeking, says Interfor Vice-President Ric Slaco: “Interfor was pleased to collaborate with Nanwakolas Council and its member Nations in its leadership role to protect large cultural cedar for cultural, social, spiritual and economic uses. Our continued partnership will ensure the promotion of healthy and resilient forests for long-term sustainable harvesting and the availability of cultural wood for generations to come.”
Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala, Wei Wai Kum, and K’ómoks are the member First Nations of the Nanwakolas Council. These First Nations each hold responsibility for the stewardship of their traditional areas on North Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of what is now British Columbia, Canada. Through Nanwakolas Council, they speak with a united voice on matters of collective regional interest. For more information visit www.nanwakolas.com.
For further information, contact:
Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council +250-203-0280 or Jordan Benner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Babita Khunkhun, Senior Director, Communications, Western Forest Products: +604.648.4562 Trevor Joyce, Interfor: email@example.com
The Large Cultural Cedar Operating Protocol is available at www.nanwakolas.com.