Vancouver Sun: Discovery of bones at B.C. lake resurrects one of darkest tales in Canadian history
The powerful article Discovery of bones at B.C. lake resurrects one of darkest tales in Canadian history, by Stephen Hume in the Vancouver Sun tells the story of the devastation of the Carrier People of Cheslatta that came from the flooding of their land for the Alcan smelter.
“Almost 50,000 hectares of the upper Nechako River watershed had to be flooded to provide power to the Kitimat aluminum smelter… To enrich our economy, theirs was smashed. Traditional trapping and hunting areas were flooded out; once-abundant salmon runs were decimated by the removal of 75 per cent of the natural flow from the Nechako River and so on.”
“The story of the Cheslatta-Carriers is quite unique. . . in the horrors that have been perpetrated. . . There have been unspeakable acts.”
The article tells how in 2005, then-Premier Gordon Campbell announced plans for the province to invest in a new spillway that would “both serve to environmentally rehabilitate the salmon-sustaining capacities of the much-diminished upper Nechako below the dam. It would also end the washing away of Cheslatta graves.” However, “Last January, just months after the latest flood, the Cheslatta received word from Premier Christy Clark’s government that the province was no longer committed to contributing funds to construction of the new spillway.”
Cheslatta Chief Corinna Leween wrote in an open letter, “The Cheslata people have paid the highest price possible going on 56 years now. We have seen our ancestors wash away. We’ve witnessed our village burnt to ashes. Cheslatta children, who could have been our Elders today, are buried in graveyards far from Cheslatta Lake and mourned by no one. Forgotten. We struggle daily, trying not to relive the past, by living each day, working to build and sustain a strong, healthy community. We have had failures and some victories but we cannot be successful unless we have a future.”