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Ancient Voices - Contemporary Contexts

American Indian Institute, Bozeman, Montana


No. 024, February 2012


Rio Tinto Alcan Returns
Cheslatta Lands

January 30, 2012
On April 21, 1952, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation were forced to surrender their land and village sites when the Aluminum Company of Canada built a series of dams on the headwaters of the Nechako River, as part of the Kemano I hydro-electric project. With 2 weeks notice, the people hastily gathered what they could carry and walked out of their vast Cheslatta Territory, while their villages were burnt to the ground. For the next 60 years, the dream of ever owning the land again was distant and dim.

Today, their dream of the owning their land has come true.

In a ceremony at the Grassy Plains Community Hall, 89 year old Abel Peters reached into his pocket and pulled out 6 vintage Canadian dollar bills, then handed them over to Paul Henning of Rio Tinto Alcan, in full payment for nearly 12,000 acres of Cheslatta lands. The terms of the transaction were much more favourable to Cheslatta today than it was in 1952, when 29 year old Abel Peters translated the terms of Surrender to his shocked and horrified people, who were about to embark on a long and tragic journey which saw the Cheslatta Nation become nearly extinct.

The celebration was witnessed by nearly 200 people who heard the story of 11 long years of negotiating and the relationships built between the Cheslatta and Rio Tinto Alcan. There was singing and dancing and a feast of moose meat, deer, salmon and bannock. The walls of the community hall were covered with dozens of posters showing images of the land, the people and the youth both before and after the flood of 1952. Gifts were exchanged by Rio Tinto Alcan and the Cheslatta Nation. Then, several non-native residents of Ootsa Lake were called to the stage and presented with a gift of 40 acres of beautiful Ootsa Lake shoreline property from the Cheslatta Nation in hopes that someday a recreation complex could be established.

The land received today will be held by the Cheslatta Carrier Nation as fee simple property and not as Indian Reservations. The people will be free to do what they want on the land, not burdened by the repressive Indian Act. Another important aspect of this unique transaction is that there are absolutely no strings attached. No favours to either party are included or expected.

The Cheslatta Nation has no immediate plans for the 64 properties which sit on the shores of either Ootsa Lake or Cheslatta Lake or the Cheslatta River. There are no buildings or improvements on any of the properties and much of the land has been used for grazing and recreation since 1952. The Cheslatta Chief and Council are assuring residents that current use of the lands can continue.

Contact: Cheslatta Carrier Nation, Box 909,
Burns Lake, BC V0J 1E0
Tel (250) 694-3334 Fax (250) 694-3632

Oren Lyons on Our Relationship With the Earth. A 7 minute, 38 second video, which is a part of a sacred land film project.


The Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community Strawberry Festival will take place the weekend of June 30 through July 1, 2012. All are welcome!

Admission: Adults: $5.00
Seniors & Children Under 12: $3.00
Children under 5: Free!
For more information and directions, CLICK HERE to download a flier.


Echoes of the Earth in
Times of Climate Change

This is a public event coordinated by the Seventh Generatiion Fund, Thursday, April 5 through Friday April 6, 2012 in Bozeman, MT.

For more information visit the FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/events/307829135925131/


Oren's Message to the Year 2100 on
11th Hour Action Web Site
"The earth has all the time in the world. And we don't"

The 11th Hour Action Network lists Oren as one of the "world's most prominent thinkers and activits." The Network "was created to help individuals and communities take sustainable action on the local, regional and national levels."


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© 2012 American Indian Institute, Bozeman, Montana