Masset feast celebrates land use plan signing

  • Jan. 4, 2008 5:00 p.m.

By Judy McKinley–Amidst the last minute bustle for stuffing and present wrapping , fifty people came together just before Christmas for a dinner to celebrate the Strategic Land Use Agreement signed between the two governments of the Haida and the Province of BC.The agreement was signed in Vancouver on December 12. CHN Vice President Arnie Bellis told the Masset gathering that they had wanted the agreement signed in Haida Gwaii, but “sometimes you have to go off island to serve the islands.” Thus the celebration dinner, the first of two to be held here on the islands.The theme of the evening was an appreciation to the diverse communities and individuals whose actions and contributions paved the way to the agreement. Mr. Bellis thanked the CHN staff, and various speakers thanked both the CHN and its leadership, and the island communities who supported the agreement: “If we didn’t have our leaders pushing for the Land Use Plans, we might still be watching all our logs going away, said Robin Brown. “I want to appreciate the island communities – we’ve all had our challenges”, said Wilson Brown, “and thanks to Guuj and Arnie who kept everybody calm and on track.”Many brought up Island Spirit Rising, the 40 day protest in 2005 that halted major logging on Haida Gwaii and pushed the province into negotiations with the Haida. Speakers included past mayor of Port Clements, Dale Lore, Gavin Hooton, a then tree planter who left his job to join the blockade, and Jim Richardson, a logger who supported the protests. Robin Brown thanked the RCMP and their representatives who came to the dinner for holding a “middle ground” during that time. “It was a time of islanders coming together.”Another theme was the common concerns of islanders. Mr. Bellis described the Land Use Plan as a “conscious decision”. “It is not only a Land Use Plan, but within the confines of the LUP is a plan for a strong economy. Our resources can’t feed the world anymore.” Island Spirit Rising, he said had a lot of input from island businesses who didn’t necessarily want to be front and centre. “In the last round it was heartwarming to witness the people bringing food and their last few dollars.Barges go by other island communities as much as us.” Now he said “We have to figure out how to act with our neighbours.” He extended his invitation once again for the community of Sandspit to come and visit in Old Massett.CHN President Guujaawput the plan in contex. “It wasn’t just something that our people faced, it was a mindset that was let loose, that development and money was all that mattered,” he said, “we won, but it’s not really a gain, they haven’t changed, we haven’t added, we just didn’t lose. We won because it’s right. It’s goofy to think you can strip the earth of its cover, changing creation to suit ourselves. We were right, and our cause is just and this direction is something we can be proud of.”And, while, as Dale Lore said, the Province, according to the 1997 Delgamuuk Supreme Court decision, was “just doing what it was supposed to do” in negotiating the SLUA, Guujaaw also told those gathered that a lot of the tension with the Province and the Crown are set aside, and we can now deal responsibly. We can feel like we have honoured those who have stood up, and . build an economy that we can be proud of.The dinner was also a look to the future, in strategy and economy, in lifestyle and in future hopes. “Sports fishing is a big one in Masset,” said Mr. Bellis. ‘And building an island economy.” “I don’t see this as being finished, until the whole Land Use Plan is fleshed out,” said Mr. Hooton, “We want to see our kids playing together, young people being able to practise their talents and not wasting them, and all of us eating healthy food. This is an agreement for the Haida especially and for all of us as islanders.”Another dinner will be held in Skidegate, with Premier Gordon Campbell and other cabinet ministers. Watch for it later this month.

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