MNN. 3 Aug. 2023. Blockade north of Dolbeau-Mistassini: Nitassinan native guardians demand end to logging operations on unceded indigenous lands. Press release – for immediate publication – [Mashteuiatsh, July 31, 2023]
On July 31, 2023 the Collectif Mashk Assi, whose mission is to protect the Nitassinan, sent a formal notice by registered mail to the Résolu Company, reiterating the opposition of the Innu guardian families to any logging on their territory. The guardians notified the company they would be patrolling the area, which is 40 km north of Dolbeau-Mistassini, to enforce the self-determination of their ancestral sovereignty and ensure that no unlogged trees were cut for profit. On the morning of July 31, 2023 a blockade was set up in the area to monitor the application of Innu law and compliance with their formal notice.
The Collectif Mashk Assi reiterates that failure to respect the Nitassinan guardian families against all industrial activities on their ancestral territory will result in legal action based on their inherent right to practice Innu Aitun, the traditional Ilnuash way of life, as protected by “international law, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and section 35 of the Constitution of Canada, 1982.” The formal notice filed on July 31, 2023 is a final warning, following the eviction notice for seven forestry companies, including Résolu, filed on May 29, 2023.
Since the filing of this eviction notice, the worst forest fires in the history of Nitassinan have ravaged the traditional territory of the Innu people, threatening the flora and fauna on which their identity and ancestral way of life are based. On June 18, 2023, the Collectif Mashk Assi, together with the Atikamekw movement Ekoni Aci and the Mohawk group Kanien’keha:ka Kahnistensera, signed a request for a moratorium on logging in the Nitassinan to allow the forest to regenerate and limit the spread of fires. The Collectif Mashk Assi considers that the Quebec government’s unilateral management of the forest for commercial purposes, without consulting the territory’s aboriginal custodians, is entirely responsible for the forest fires that have posed unprecedented risks to the health and safety of the entire northeastern continent of turtle island. The blockade set up in Dolbeau-Mistassini on July 31, 2023 is also intended to put an end to mining prospecting by First Phosphate, which intends to take the resources of Nitassinan without the approval of the Innu territory’s guardian families.
Finally, the Collectif Mashk Assi reiterates that no treaty or agreement in principle affecting the ancestral rights of the Ilnuash people can be negotiated without the agreement of the Nitassinan guardian families who hold ancestral title to these lands. In particular, it rejects outright the Petapan Treaty, which is currently being negotiated behind closed doors by representatives of various levels of government, including federal agents known as Band Councils. On June 2 a formal notice to cease negotiations of the Petapan Treaty was also sent by registered mail to all parties involved.
Bruce Coburn asks “If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?”