ceremony FAIRY CREEK old growth

PHOTOS: Two-spirit-led prayer walk honours fallen old growth at Fairy Creek

Up-coming Hereditary Chief Victor Peter of the Pacheedaht First Nation (left) and two-spirit land defenders Sage (back) and Songbird (right) hold a funeral ceremony march in Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) on 5 June 2021. (Photo by Trent Maynard)

On Saturday 5 June 2021, a two-spirit-led funeral ceremony honoured fallen ancient trees in Pacheedaht territory at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek watershed, near Port Renfrew, BC), the centre of ongoing old growth logging blockades on Vancouver Island.

Forest defenders, lead by Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, have been blocking access to the watershed since August 2020, in hopes of halting forestry company Teal-Jones from logging in one the last remaining undeveloped valleys in the region.

The sacred prayer walk for fallen elder trees was held by up-coming Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief Victor Peter and two-spirit land defenders Songbird and Sage.

Queer and BIPOC allies from the crowd were invited to participate in the ceremony.

Hundreds of people followed in the funeral procession which passed through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) check point and continued onwards through extensive clear-cuts to Waterfall Camp.

RCMP reportedly moved their checkpoint several kilometres further down the road toward Port Renfrew (Bo:ʔapiʔis) recently, blocking vehicle access to the public and increasing the journey to Waterfall Camp by foot by several hours.

Around one hundred people completed the 20km+ roundtrip vigil by foot from the newly formed Hayaka Camp to Waterfall Camp.

Tears filled the eyes of some Waterfall Camp forest defenders as the funeral ceremony arrived.

Heavy police enforcement and dozens of arrests have occurred at this and other camps blocking old growth logging in recent weeks.

A coalition of Canadian media outlets and press freedom groups is suing the RCMP over their use of exclusion zones at Fairy Creek and alleged limits on press freedom in covering enforcements.

Land defenders continue to occupy Waterfall Camp as a strategic junction to block logging road-building into the so-far undeveloped Fairy Creek watershed.

RCMP announced two more arrests on Saturday 5 June, bringing the total number of arrests to 172.

The funeral ceremony passes through expansive old-growth clearcuts in Pacheedaht territory on the way to Waterfall Camp, a critical access point for the Fairy Creek watershed. (Photo by Trent Maynard)

Pacheedaht, Dididaht and Huu-ay-aht announce joint declaration to defer old growth logging

On Monday 7 June, a press release was issued by hereditary chiefs of the Pacheedaht, Dididaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations announcing a joint declaration. The three nations are asking for deferrals of old growth logging in Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran Valley for two years while management plans are finalized to manage old growth according to traditional values.

“We have made a commitment to our people to manage the resources on our ḥahahuułi (traditional territories) the way our ancestors did – guided by our sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one),” said a statement by uu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters), Ditidaht Chabut Satiixub (Hereditary Chief Paul Tate), and Pacheedaht’s Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones.