Canada: Chief Michael Yellowback blocking all mineral exploration and work permits on its ancestral lands

Date of publication: 
21 February 2014

Northern Manitoba’s Manto Sipi Cree Nation and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation announced their opposition to mineral exploration in their traditional and ancestral territories this week.

Manto Sipi Cree Nation at Gods River issued a press release Feb. 18 stating that it would block mineral exploration and work permits on its ancestral lands in northeastern Manitoba and will not consult with the provincial government until all land disputes are addressed and settled. The press release said the province had recently sent three work permit applications for Mineral exploration to Manto Sipi Cree Nation.

“I have been given a strong mandate to initiate legal, political and defensive action against outside encroachment,” said Manto Sipi Cree Nation Chief Michael Yellowback in the press release. “Manto Sipi Cree Nation will stop all three work permit applications immediately. One of the main issues is that Manto Sipi Cree Nation has exhausted all avenues in dealing with [Mineral Resources] Minister [Dave] Chomiak on Manto Sipi Cree Nation’s land claim which is on an expired mineral claim purportedly held by Jim Campbell. The minister’s legal position and opinion on this Godslith Claim has been refuted by our lawyers, so we will challenge it in court.”

On Feb. 19, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation at Pukatawagan issued a press release stating that its self-proclaimed moratorium against mining activities on its traditional territory was still in effect.

“The sovereign nation of Missinippi Nehethowak, as represented by Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, has always and continues to assert our full sovereignty, jurisdiction, rights and responsibilities over our extensive traditional territories,” said Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen Dumas. “We have ongoing legal, political and cultural obligations to protect our water, land, plants, and animals within our territories on behalf of past, current and future generations and we will live up to that obligation.”

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, which declared July 1 of last year that no federal, provincial, municipal or other laws would apply within their territory without their full, informed and prior consent, said it has rejected several work permit applications by Hudbay Mining and Auriga Gold until a mutually designed consultation process had been developed with the provincial government. The First Nation says offers made to the province to work together to develop this process have received no response.

“As per our Cree laws, we continue to extend our hands in the spirit of cooperation, peaceful coexistence, and mutual prosperity,” said Dumas. “We fully recognize that there may be areas over which we might find it both practical and efficient to share jurisdiction, management and/or use of over specific parts of our territories. However, the unilateral assertion of jurisdiction or continued theft of our lands and resources by federal and provincial governments will no longer be tolerated.”

Manto Sipi Cree Nation Coun. Daniel Ross said that Chomiak had extended a mineral claim in Johnson Bay without notice and had sent notices of mineral exploration work permit applications in the Elk Island and Little Stull Lake areas. Coun. Roger Ross said Johnson Bay and Little Stull Lake are the sites of traplines worked by Manto Sipi Cree Nation citizens and that the Elk Island are is the First Nation’s Treaty Land Entitlement selection area to be converted as reserve lands.

“We will resist all mineral exploration applications and, and if we have to escort Jim Campbell from our ancestral lands, we will,” said Cou. Roger Ross.

“We have witnessed the NDP government’s failure to do proper consultations with other First Nations and we don’t want no part of it,” said Yellowback. “We already got a taste of his unsavoury antics and his use of the Mining Advisory Council to abridge consultation and community benefits. Furthermore, Manto Sipi Cree Nation will not recognize the minister’s Mining Advisory Council. I want to remind everyone Manto Sipi Cree Nation’s position is on the duty to negotiate resource equity not on the duty to consult. We are very cautious and leery of Minister Chomiak’s tactics and misinformation to the public about First Nation-Crown consultation.”

Dumas said Mathias Colomb Cree Nation supported the efforts of Manto Sipi Cree Nation to halt mineral exploration, as well as those of Red Sucker Lake First Nation (RSLFN).

The chief and council of RSLFN, also in northeastern Manitoba near the Ontario border, said in a Feb. 12 press release that they would no longer give consent to any further mineral exploration on their ancestral lands and traditional territories.

“The Red Sucker Lake First Nation will oppose mineral exploration and the drilling program in our territory,” saidRSLFN Chief Les Harper. “This is the decision of the council. We are saying ‘no’ to the province’s proposal to conduct community consultations because they don’t work. We will also do whatever we can to stop Mega Precious Metals and to go against the court injunction by implementing the eviction notice of July 1, 2013. Also [Mineral Resources] Minister [Dave] Chomiak has hired Phil Fontaine as a ‘mediator.’ Mr. Fontaine is paid by the province and he is not independent. The council has rejected his input.”

Chief Harper, along with RSLFN councillors and citizens issued a stop work order and eviction notice at Mega Precious Metals Inc.’s Monument Bay Project mineral exploration camp 60 kilometres north of the community last July 1.

The latest announcement from RSLFN was issued in after chief and council recently voted against two mineral exploration-based requests – one from Manitoba Mineral Resources asking the First Nation to consider an application for a camp for mineral exploration, the other a letter from Mega Precious Metals seeking a meeting with the chief and council.

The council will also oppose the issuance of any new mineral exploration permits or the extension of 2013-14 work permits which are due to expire on March 31, the press release said.