Gitxsan hereditary chief blocks attempted logging of his territory by his own people’s company
A Gitxsan hereditary chief says he will risk arrest and being jailed to stop the logging of his territory by his own people’s company.
Dale Good is the hereditary chief of the Gitsegukla Wilp's house of Wii Gyet in Northern, BC. Good, whose traditional name is Yobx, says Gitxsan Forest Enterprises Inc. (GFE) is attempting to wrongfully log territory he says rightfully belongs to his house - the Wilp's house of Wii Gyet. Logging would damage the land and threaten the house’s seven fishing sites, he says.
The territory in question is located 20 minutes from Hazelton, BC, and is situated between Gitsegukla and Kitwanga. The territory is also claimed by Calvin Hyzims and Vernon Smith, who are hereditary chiefs from the neighbouring Kitwanga First Nation. The two gave their permission for it to be logged. Good, 60, says his house’s right to the territory is supported by their oral history, and by documents from the the Gtixsan library and archives.
GFE and Gitxsan Development Corp. own the licence to log the territory and has subcontracted the logging. “It’s the same feeling as coming home and finding it is being burglarized,” Good says. “Only now I’m watching who is doing it and it’s our own people, and as a hereditary chief of a house it makes me frustrated and angry.”
Good first noticed signs his house’s territory was being prepped for logging last fall. He put up signs notifying the area belonged to Wilp’s house of Wii Gyet, but they were removed. He met with Kitwanga hereditary chiefs Smith and Hyzims in January but didn’t resolve the matter. Good also met twice with BC Minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Doug Donaldson - who is also the MLA for Stikine where the territory is located, and with officials from Skeena Stikine Forest District but the matter wasn’t resolved.
His diplomatic options exhausted, on June 2 Good exercised his last resort - blockading the logging road and having logging contractors escorted out, and he’s resolute to keep them out.
“If this our territory is allowed to be logged then our house’s children will inherit lands left bare by logging and will have food stolen right from their mouths,” the married father of five and grandfather of eight says. “I’m willing to sacrifice being arrested and jailed if that’s what it takes to stop this. I have nothing left to lose.“
Good says that the media might try and fob the issue off as an internal Gitxsan territorial dispute and hesitate to report on it. But there’s another issue at stake that makes the matter more significant. “If it was a white company that held the logging licence, then by law the government is obligated to consult with my house - the Wilp’s Wii Gyet - because their plan impacts our territory,” Good says. “That obligation still stands whether it’s a white company or a Gitxsan one, and we weren’t consulted.”
Good’s blockade remains standing. He’s exploring legal options. And the youth in his tribe have offered to stand with him.
“It should never have been allowed to come to this but it has,” Good says. “We’re entrenched, and it’s not criminal to fight for what is ours.”
Contact: Dale Good (Yobx)
Home: 250 849 5772
Cell: 250 631 8490