'Cycle to the Sacred' raises funds for Klabona Keepers 

Tahltan elders fighting resource development in B.C.'s north

click to enlarge Sacred journey
  • Sacred journey

Last summer, a group of athlete-activists called Beyond Boarding spent time roaming the B.C. countryside learning about resource expansion and filming a documentary.

The film, titled Northern Grease, culminated with the group spending six weeks with members of the Tahltan Nation in their traditional lands known as the Sacred Headwaters, and documented a group called the Klabona Keepers and its fight against resource expansion in B.C.'s north.

It's a battle that's been ongoing for years. To recap, Shell Canada was granted the rights — without proper consultation of the Tahltan — to explore for natural gas in the region back in 2004.

What followed was a well-publicized battle between the Tahltan and Shell, culminating in the oil giant's withdrawal from the region in 2012.

But another company — Ontario-based Fortune Minerals — has big plans for the region too: A 4,000-hectare, open-pit mine.

Northern Grease ends on a positive note, with Fortune Minerals backing out for the 2013 season after protests from the Tahltan.

But the fight is far from over — Fortune Minerals will be returning to the area in August.

So this summer, Beyond Boarding is headed back to the Sacred Headwaters.

"We are doing this initiative called Cycle to the Sacred, which essentially is a 2,500-kilometre bike marathon from Vancouver up to the Sacred Headwaters of B.C. to raise $25,000," said Desirée Wallace, one of the group's founders.

Wallace, along with fellow Beyond Boarding members Landon Yerex and Nicole Kilistoff, will be stopping in communities along the way to spread awareness for the Tahltan, and screen Northern Grease.

"We and our organization think it's really of high importance to stand in solidarity with these people who are sacrificing the most, the people that are on the frontlines," Wallace said.

Money raised through the Cycle to the Sacred tour will support the Klabona Keepers in its resistance.

"It would help out a lot," said Rhoda Quock, spokesperson for the Klabona Keepers.

The funds will be used to help build a cabin in the area where previous resistance has taken place, but the campaign also helps to raise awareness, Quock said.

"It helps to continue to get it out there," she said."To see our struggles, and to see what we're facing."

For the Keepers, the battle isn't about money — it's about preserving a way of life that has existed for centuries.

"We use and occupy that land every summer. We take our kids there to teach them our culture, and that's where we gather our moose meat for the winter," Quock said.

The Sacred Headwaters are considered by some to be one of the largest climate change sanctuaries in the world. They are the source of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers, "which are three of the most important salmon-bearing watersheds across this nation," Wallace said.

"So any type of industrial development, especially in the scale of 4,000 hectares, would greatly put that at risk."

Whether or not the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding Aboriginal land title in the case of the Tsilhqot'in Nation will lead to legal action from the Tahltan isn't clear at this point, Quock said.

"Right now, all I can say is that we will continue to fight," she said."We'll continue to fight for that place to be protected, and we're not giving up. We've invested nine years into this fight and we will not back down."

To contribute to Cycle to the Sacred visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/cycle-to-the-sacred--2.



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