For Canada, a treaty is strictly commercial, but for the Heiltsuk Nation of coastal British Columbia, any impairment of its inherent claim to territory or resources affects its cultural integrity. Which is why they walked out on the treaty process twenty years ago.
Summing up their point of view, the Heiltsuk — who have a documented ten thousand year presence on the central coast — said, “We’re here, live with it.”
Part of protecting themselves against the onslaught of Ottawa and the oil companies has been the establishment of an integrated resource management department for documenting Heiltsuk culture and heritage, and for making sure that any research done within its territory aligns with Heiltsuk’s interest in documenting their indigenous provenance.
The Heiltsuk traditional use study is an ongoing project that includes oral and written history from the past to the present. Stories that predate the end of the last ice age are part of that provenance.
Standing on their heritage, the Heiltsuk Nation increasingly has standing under international law to take such acts as banning oil tankers from their waters. Their enduring presence and identity poses a formidable challenge to the concept of dominion.
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