By BRYAN MEADOWS
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The chief of the Saugeen Nation north of Ignace is not happy with herbicide spraying in area forests and plans to seek $1 billion in compensation from senior levels of government.
“We are against the spraying . . . (and) plan to go ahead with a study on the health effects of our people,” Chief Edward Machimity said in an interview Tuesday from the First Nation community near Savant Lake. Chemical spraying impacts the long-term health of wildlife and humans living in the boreal forest, Machimity said, adding he has sent a letter to Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay outlining the band‘s concerns with spraying in Bowater‘s Caribou Forest management area north of the CN Rail tracks. “We‘ll be asking for $1 billion in compensation (due to aerial spraying) affecting the health of animals and people” in the band‘s traditional area, Machimity said.
Other band members have voiced concerns about the spray harming blueberries and trapping success in the area. The ministry maintains that aerial spraying with herbicide, to kill or slow the growth of competing vegetation, is an acceptable forest management practice across the province.
MNR spokesman Bob Patterson said the ministry‘s Sioux Lookout office is “certainly willing to talk about areas of concern (the band has).
“We‘re willing to work with them on not spraying specific areas,” he said. But, he said, “if they don‘t want spraying at all (in the Caribou Forest), then there‘s where we have problems.” Meanwhile, forest spraying is not the only issue rattling Saugeen band members.
A small group of residents, upset with a lack of housing, jobs and band governance, has called for “a traditional gathering” to discuss outstanding concerns. They held a rally last week at the band office to protest the forest spraying and what they called a lack of communication by band leaders.
“We‘d like to see more honesty and fairness” from band leaders group spokeswoman Darlene Necan said.
She said frustrated residents can do little to change leadership on the reserve as it is governed by band custom. That means “the self-proclaimed chief . . . is pretty well untouchable,” she said. Machimity, who has been chief over the past 30 years, said the band‘s office has been closed temporarily due to ongoing threats to band administration and council.
“I want (the group) to calm down so we can talk to them peacefully,” he said, estimating “only about seven people” are behind the current protest. “They are not representative of the people,” said Machimity. Necan disagrees with Machimity on the numbers, saying about 30 per cent of the community‘s 90 or so residents are upset about conditions on the reserve. Machimity added that he is in no hurry to convene a traditional gathering. “We tried a meeting (with band membership) a couple of years ago, but a bunch of arguments started,” he said. Having said that, Machimity noted that he has called for a traditional gathering to take place on the July 1 weekend of 2009 “so we can come together as families to set our house in order.”
Less than half of Saugeen First Nation‘s 189 band members live on the Highway 599 reserve.
The Saugeen Nation includes former members of Lac Seul, Osnaburgh, Cat Lake, Fort Hope, Wabigoon and Parry Island First Nations. It received official band status in April 1985.
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