[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
Port Alberni (CP) - The Huu-ay-aht First Nation will block the West Coast Trail unless Ottawa agrees to pay for the right to trespass, says chief councillor Robert Dennis. Last July the band started asking hikers on the world-famous trail to pay a voluntary $20 "visa" fee to walk on Huu-ay-aht land. "If federal officials fail to make a timely and equitable settlement offer," Dennis said, "hikers will be required next spring to pay a mandatory fee or forgo walking one of the world's pre-eminent wilderness trails."
The chief said he and other band representatives had their first meeting with federal officials in Victoria earlier this week. He said federal officials agreed that hikers are trespassing and "we tabled a variety of options" on compensation for timber values and on resolving "current and future access" on the reserve crossed by the trail. Dennis wouldn't go into detail but said "we'd be willing to look at a Ditidaht kind of package." That package cost the federal government $11.7 million up front. In 1992, Ottawa gave the neighbouring Ditidaht First Nation $9.5 million for not logging the land bordering the trail. In 1994 it paid the band $2.2 million to settle a claim for access to the trail. Dennis said Ottawa is also paying the Ditidaht $25,000 a year for the ongoing use of the land.
Alex Zellermeyer, Pacific Rim National Park superintendent, and federal treaty negotiator Eric Denhoff have been appointed to negotiate with the band. Zellermeyer said the Huu-ay-aht have filed a "specific claim" outside of the treaty process with the federal Justice Department and any compensation will emanate from that claim. He and Denhoff have been appointed to an "interim measures table" to discuss parks-related issues with the Huu-ay-aht before these issues reach the full treaty table. The negotiations are scheduled to continue in Nanaimo Oct. 8.
Eric Denhoff is a former BC deputy minister of Aboriginal Affairs; he is also associated with the multi-national SNC Lavalin Ltd.
The surrender of timber rights by the Ditidaht Band was opposed at the time by the area's hereditary guardian Chabat Nytom. His-tah-too-kwa, aka Peter Knighton, spokesperson for his brother, wrote at the time:
"The federal government of Canada and the provincial government of British Columbia break the rule of law. In 1880 the federal Parliament legislatively created an artificial political concept and called it the Indian Act 'band'. Its function was to compete with and eventually to drive out of existence the traditional native governments. Thus, one Indian Act section expressly deemed it illegal for hereditary chiefs to speak whenever the 'band' should speak. This domestic law of Canada and the puppet governments it established was, and remains illegal...the federal and provincial governments have since 1880 through a program of monetary bribes persuaded these unconstitutional puppet band governments to speak whenever non-native society wanted to steal the resources of Mother Earth from their true protector: Chabaht Nytom...for though the voices of Qwa-ba-diwa, the human people of Carmanah, and their Chief, have been drowned out by the pathetic duet between the 'band' and its master the federal government, the only voices that are relevant are those of the silenced traditional government. The 'band' has not a spoonful of dirt it can call its own. Not owning Carmanah, it cannot extinguish the Creator's trust invested in Chabat Nytom forever to preserve Carmanah."