All That's Left is Struggle: Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Cree



July, 1993

The government has allowed multinationals to exploit the natural resources on the traditional territory of the Lubicon Lake Cree for the last few decades. They have resisted with blockades and other campaigns.

It's going back to the time of the treaties in northern Alberta and to some degree in Saskatchewan. We were missed out of the whole [treaty] process altogether. We were away from the waterways that the treaty commissioners used at the time, and we were pretty well left alone in our area--hunting and trapping on the land with very little contact with the non-Native people. Since the late '70s they found oil in our area and then, you know, that way of life is gone.

Both levels of government have . . . tried to do everything under the sun to prevent a settlement. And in the meantime they're stealing our natural resources outright. I think a lot of it is dependent on the public, the Canadian public. If they keep electing these kind of people in power, well, it's going to be quite some time before we can get . . . a half decent settlement that would allow the younger or future generations to survive within their own society.

We've got this Daishowa pulp mill that's to the west of us here. The Alberta government has given them timber leases which go way beyond our traditional territories.

These last few years we've been able to keep them out. There was an incident that took place back a couple of years ago where a camp was torched . . . Our people are still going to court this fall over that incident. I don't see how we can survive something like clearcut logging considering the damage that's already been done.

The province claims that all the Crown lands were turned over to the Alberta government back in 1930 [in] the Natural Resources Transfer Act. But over and above that, the federal government never dealt with the Aboriginal title over our traditional area.

If we were dealing strictly [with the] law, then of course we would have all our Aboriginal rights intact. So that is there. But, you know, you get into these different political situations where people with money seem to get away with a whole lot. We're caught up in all this mess. All of a sudden there's natural resources to be had and that's the objective. Native people, they don't seem to count in any considerations.

Again, you know, it all boils down to the government control of the courts and everything else so it's not a question of law anymore, it's politics in most instances. It seems to be the case that the courts waive the truth. One moment you feel you've gained some ground and it goes back to court . . . and they seem to throw everything out the window again. So it's an uphill battle. It costs a lot of the money and the other side controls everything.

We have no reason to believe things will be different under this [new Campbell] government. In our case, there's been times when the federal government has prepared to move then the Alberta government has stalled. It's gone back and forth for a lot of years now.

I was certainly hoping that [the provincial NDP] would do something. In Saskatchewan, we've had many Elders, at least 40, at a camp where they've tried to stop clearcut logging. They're still there, and [the government is] threatening them with all kinds of lawsuits and again, that's a New Democratic government.

It's a tough fight and we certainly have seen a lot of what the other side can do, and the kind of power that they have. That's why these people have to be very, very committed if they have a blockade or anything of that nature. It seems they just want to use our people for target practice or something.

I think one of the things we need to do, with people that are Indigenous and First Nations, is we keep in contact--you know they have fax machines now and that stuff--we need to have people know what is going on, whether it be in the Lubicon area, B.C., or whatever. So that we're not isolated in these situations. The more isolated, well, the more the other side gets away with. Communication is an important thing.

And, you know, all the people struggle.

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