The Ross River First Nation has won a precedent-setting case. It will soon be obligatory for anyone mining or prospecting or staking on their land to notify the First Nation and get permission to go in there to make any sort of mess.
And why not?
The anger of First Nation people toward mining and oil companies and their distrust of government has been held in memory for many generations.
And if you knew how native people in the Yukon have been pushed around by the government – sometimes so heartlessly that it makes me shudder to hear the stories – you too would be applauding when they sometimes win a struggle.
I have met the seven Indian people who helped Al Kulan discover the Anvil Range deposit. In fact, they took him into the bush and showed it to him.
In the end they got nothing. Some of these trusting, real wilderness people thought they were getting shares in all the millions of dollars of wealth generated from that so-called discovery.
Today the ones still alive sit in their shacks in Ross River spending their old age in poverty. They are highly respected by their own people even though forgotten in the mining world.
I had a property in Faro for a while but some of the elders in Ross River told me, “Don’t live there. The wind brings poison and you will die.”
They are talking about the tailings from the Anvil Mine that snake down from the mountain like a plague, killing all vegetation and creating a tumour on the earth that can be seen from the moon.
No wonder they don’t want to see that happen again.
Cancer has killed a lot of people I know in Faro. It could have been caused by old age and smoking but who knows for sure.
There are always exceptions to any pattern. The Minto Mine near Pelly Crossing has done well by the First Nation people there. But that, to anyone who knows Yukon history – is a rare occurrence.
So my old working hat comes off in respect to the Indians of Ross River – and to Indians everywhere in their struggle to gain respect and freedom on their own land.