Several members of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation are openly opposing construction of a new church, which may compromise a sacred burial site.
The First Nation has asked for more time to assess the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board application to build an access road to the church site.
On Tuesday, five Little Salmon/Carmacks youth submitted a letter to the assessment board.
The lease for the church lot, which was approved by the Yukon Party government, was illegal because there wasn’t any meaningful consultation with the First Nation, said the youth in their four-page letter.
Carmacks’ rezoning of the area to community use from parkland should be quashed for the same reason.
“We, as the future generation, are very concerned that all levels of government have failed in protecting our constitutional rights and knowingly disregard our land claim and sacred burial grounds.”
The five girls who signed the letter have asked that their names not be reprinted, for fear of repercussion from within the community.
“The project has stirred up a great deal of controversy within the First Nation as the lot is located on a First Nation burial site,” Little/Salmon Carmacks said in its two-page submission.
“In fact, when the highway was constructed, First Nation graves were uncovered in the road cut below the lot. The whole hillside is a burial area.”
The First Nation has asked for more time to determine the exact location of the lot and its access road.
Little Salmon/Carmacks elders will then examine the area to gather knowledge about the burials.
Work to prepare the lot for the church has already been completed.
The site has been cleared, leveled off and an access road already exists.
The First Nation would like to investigate the circumstances surrounding this work.
The assessment board extended the deadline for comments on the proposal to July 29.
The proposed lot is not a gravesite — it was a gravel pit used for road and bridge construction, said Carmacks Christian Fellowship president Jerry Kruse.
“It actually was a hole. We leveled it off and we’re going to build a building on it.”
The Christian group, which is not affiliated with any major denominations, has been holding its services on the lot, weather permitting.
The First Nation should know where the lot and access route are situated, said Kruse.
“When we first told them we were building a church, we sent them an aerial map with a drawing on it,” said Kruse.
But the YESAB application is for an access road, not the church building.
“It really has nothing to do with the lot; YTG has already approved the lot,” he added.
Even though it is difficult to get heavy equipment up the road, the Christian group could technically begin construction of the church.
“We’ll wait, that’s no big deal,” said Kruse.
“We probably won’t be ready to pour cement or anything until mid-August, or so.”
At the end of its letter, Little Salmon/Carmacks apologized to the church group for the inconvenience.
“However, this is an extremely important and sensitive issue deserving a very careful and complete investigation of the facts.
“The First Nation understands how important the issue is to the Carmacks Christian Fellowship, but asks that the church also respect the First Nation’s obligation to protect First Nation sites.”