Support the Wilp Wii'Litsxw Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area

Support the Wilp Wii'Litsxw Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area

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VoVo Productions started this petition to British Columbia Provincial Government (Premier John Horgan)

Meziadin~ On August 28, 2021 at Lax an Zok (Meziadin Falls/River) Wilp Wii Litsxw announced the establishment of the Wilp Wii Litsxw Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area at an outdoor event including approximately 200 guests. Supported by the other 7 Gitanyow Wilps (House Groups), and witnessed by neighbouring Gitksan, Wet’suwet’en, Tsimshian, and Nisga’a peoples, Wilp Wii Litsxw Simoogits (Chief and Wing Chiefs) and Sigidm’hanak (Matriarchs) signed the Declaration of the Wilp Wii Litsxw Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area. Guests were fed salmon selectively harvested from the Meziadin River by Wilp Wii Litsxw, and enjoyed a performance by the Gitwangak/Gitanyow song and dance group, and viewed the world premiere of the documentary film Ha Nii Tokxw: Our Food Table by VoVo Productions.

“We have affirmed in our Ayookxw (laws) that the entire Meziadin watershed is protected from mining and mineral exploration, railway and other major industrial development,” said Simoogit Wii Litsxw, Gregory Rush Sr. “Salmon is central to our culture and is an indicator of ecosystem health and function, we take this important step to let government, industry and the general public know that this area must be cared for by the original stewards of this land – Wilp Wii Litsxw and the Gitanyow.”

In 2012, the Hanna Tintina Conservancy was protected through the Gitanyow Lax’yip Land Use Plan, and protected 24,000 hectares of land around Hanna and Tintina Creeks which are critical habitat for Nass River sockeye. However, in 2016 Gitanyow Fisheries Authority learned of a larger abundance of spawning salmon in nearby Strohn Creek, which was not included in the Conservancy. Due to climate change and increased glacial melt, Strohn Creek has become more suitable habitat for salmon spawning, but is also affected by new mineral claims by companies seeking to capitalize on newly exposed areas for drilling.

“In the face of climate crisis, we need to act to ensure food security for our future generations and all others who rely on Nass River salmon,” said Gitanyow President and Chief Negotiator Malii/Glen Williams. “We are not opposed to development, but we want to ensure it is done sustainably and in accordance with our Ayookxw and principle of Gwelx ye’enst (sustainability principle of the Gitanyow).”

Wilp Wii Litsxw shared with the event guests, and will conduct formal engagement on the Draft Management Plan for the Wilp Wii Litsxw Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area. Over the next 6 months, affected parties will be able to review the Draft Plan, provide feedback and comment, and meet with Wilp Wii Litsxw and the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs to discuss how the Draft Plan affects their interests, whether they be neighboring First Nations, Crown governments, industry, or the general public. Following that review, the Wilp will incorporate relevant feedback and make changes as needed. A final Management Plan will be used in consultation with industry and Crown governments and guide all activity in the protected area.

“Our vision for the Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area is one that is inclusive of everyone, but in a way that does not damage critical salmon habitat. We must work together to ensure this area thrives into the future and supports economic activity that benefits local communities,” said Simoogit Wii Litsxw. The Meziadin watershed provides spawning habitat for approximately 80% of Nass River sockeye. To date in 2021, more than 230,000 sockeye have passed through the Meziadin Fishway to spawn in Hanna, Tintina, and Strohn Creeks and the Meziadin Lake shore.

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs and Wilp Wii Litsxw have been calling on the provincial government to expand the Hanna Tintina Conservancy to include Strohn Creek and its tributary Surprise Creek, as well as smaller streams that drain into Meziadin Lake since 2017. While discussions continue, the province has yet to take the needed steps to provide legal protection in the Crown laws. Gitanyow is acting on their ancestral responsibilities to protect salmon, water and biodiversity in their Lax’yip (territory) for future generations. Gitanyow is hopeful that Crown governments will recognize the importance of this area and protect it in their laws also.

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