Victories and Challenges for Tsilhqot’in Land and Cultural Rights

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

We are delighted to report some great news about the Tsilhqot’in people of south-central British Columbia, with whom Terralingua has been working as a part of our Voices of the Earth project. The Tsilhqot’in’s have been waging a longstanding battle against a proposed major gold-copper mine that would destroy an ecologically and culturally significant part of their territory, known as Nabas. A federal Canadian Review Panel in charge of the environmental assessment of this mining proposal has just delivered its report. It concludes that the project would result in “significant adverse environmental effects” for lakes and streams in the area, for fish and grizzly bear habitat, and for resource use and cultural heritage of the Aboriginal population.

(See Full Panel Report  and Executive Summary.)

Remarkably, the Review Panel focused much attention on the cultural and spiritual significance of the area for the Tsilhqot’in people and the other First Nation that would be affected, the Secwepemc. It is heartwarming to see that matters of cultural traditions, heritage, and spiritual values played such an important role in the Panel’s conclusions. Terralingua had provided support to the Tsilhqot’in for the documentation of oral traditions and traditional knowledge concerning their ancestral relationships with Nabas.

The Panel’s report, however, is not the final word on the proposed mine. The final decision about this project, due by the end of February 2014, rests with the Canadian Federal Government. The outcome of this assessment, which confirms the result of a previous assessment in 2010, raises hope that the project will again be declined, as it was in 2010. But you may wish to write now to the Canadian Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, and let her know what you think about this matter. You can contact her at, or make use of the Sierra Club of B.C.'s online letter.

And the Tsilhqot’in people need your support not only in this case, but also for the many other challenges they face. The Tsilhqot’in have never ceded their title over their territory, yet their sovereignty is being infringed daily by the encroachment of unauthorized logging and hunting, in addition to mining. They are engaged in battles on many fronts, with extraordinary endurance. In a few days, on November 7, the Canadian Supreme Court will hear their historic case about the validity of their aboriginal title—a case they have been fighting for 23 years!

We dearly hope that the Tsilhqot’in will succeed both in their court case and in their fight against the proposed mine. Regardless of outcome, their work documenting oral traditions and traditional knowledge must continue, not only for the sake of protecting the area from mining and other threats, but also as a long-term contribution to Tsilhqot’in language and culture revitalization.

Your donations to Voices of the Earth will help support that vital work.