Posted by: peacevalley | July 4, 2008

First Nations Chiefs Paddling the Peace River to Raise Awareness

West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson and Assembly of First Nations BC Regional Chief Shawn Atleo will be paddling a canoe down the Peace River July 12, 2008, to raise awareness and learn more about Northern First Nations’ concerns regarding the Site C hydroelectric dam proposal.  The proposed dam would flood 104km of homes, traditional territory, farms and wildlife habitat in the Peace River, Moberly River and Halfway River valleys in Northeastern BC.

 

Many of the Treaty 8 First Nations and non-indigenous communities up and down the inter-provincial river system would be affected by the creation of the Site C dam and reservoir.

 

“We have more at stake than just our people’s deep history in this valley,” commented West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson. “Today, we hunt and fish and live along the river.  If they built the dam, the islands where most of the deer and elk have their calves would be under water.  Their wintering grounds on the river slopes would be eroded by flood waters. The fish would be poisoned with mercury.  New reservoir waters would be unusable for years. All these changes to the land will have a profound effect on the entire area, and threaten the way of life of our people and our neighbors.”

 

“Flooding of the valley will create an imbalance to an already extremely stressed ecosystem. People need to understand that the connectivity of the land is extremely important to maintain the biodiversity of this area, especially for animals such as the Grizzly Bear.”

 

“It is important that First Nations’ voices are heard and their jurisdictions are respected when provincial energy and land-use decisions are made,” says Chief Atleo. “We must ensure that all British Columbians are aware and educated about the potential impact of this development on First Nations lands and people in the Peace River valley.”

 

The West Moberly First Nations and the Peace Valley Environment Association organized the original Paddle for the Peace in 2006 to raise awareness about the proposed Site C hydro-electric dam. In 2007, more than 300 people canoed and rowed down the Peace River to show their support for the valley. Participants came from as far as Germany, although most were local First Nations, farmers, rural and urban residents.  All were concerned about the loss of the valley’s ecological, First Nation, traditional and agricultural values.

 

“I paddle each year because I don’t want to see this amazing, important valley destroyed for power-greed,” said event organizer Danielle Yeoman. “Instead of a large-scale dam, BC Hydro should be looking at truly green energy options, such as wind and tidal power.  The province can’t afford to lose the Peace River’s intact ecosystem, the prime agricultural land or the wildlife habitat. They are too valuable.”

 

The three hour paddle starts from the Halfway River launch and ends downstream at Bear Flats. The family-friendly event concludes with a community feast and celebration, hosted by the West Moberly First Nations. To register for the 3rd annual Paddle for the Peace, visit www.paddleforthepeace.ca.

 

The West Moberly First Nation and the Peace Valley Environment Association are working on several research, public education and stewardship projects together, to foster broad community engagement with respect to the preservation and conservation of the Peace River valley.

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