As temperatures plummet and winter looms, several First Nations members say they are staying put
The threat of snow and freezing temperatures haven’t deterred members of Maliseet First Nations who have set up an encampment near the proposed Sisson mine project.
The members of the Wulustukyik grandmothers and mothers say they are still committed to staying deep in the New Brunswick forest, no matter how harsh the conditions get, to protect the water and land from any mining development.
“The commitment is to stay out here all winter,” said Terry Sappier. “We’re just trying to get our building up before the snow flies, so that’s the challenge right now.”
Sappier has been living at the site near Sisson Brook for more than four months, along with several other opponents of the project.
A trio of camper trailers parked alongside a series of tents and tarp shelters make up the bulk of the encampment. They are heated and lit by a gas-powered generator. Several small solar panels also help power the camp.
It all sits approximately 13 kilometres from the nearest stretch of pavement on Route 107, and is only accessible by dirt logging roads.
A mini-home had been donated to the group, and there were plans to move it to the encampment. But that plan has changed as the group hopes to find more permanent.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for us,” said Sappier, the only one on site who speaks on camera. “So, Tobique First Nations stepped up and they are building us a six-bedroom log cabin.”
The foundation and floor of that cabin are built, with tresses waiting to be mounted.
But the hunting has been good. According to Sappier, the group has been able to harvest deer and moose to feed them throughout the winter months. They are currently curing a whitetail deer hide.
But as the season changes, so have the challenges.
Sappier lists keeping warm as the hardest part of the day-to-day survival right now, an issue that will only get worse in the weeks ahead.
But she says the group of about a dozen people who frequent the camp throughout the run of a week will continue to live in the camp until the threat of the Sisson Mining Project no longer exists.
The mine received federal environmental approval in June.
If built, the facility would be expected to run for close to 30 years, and is projected to cost $579 million.
The developer, Sisson Mine Ltd., says the mine could create 500 positions during construction, and 300 while up and running.
In February 2017,there were six Maliseet First Nations that agreed to the Sission mine deal, including Tobique, Kingsclear, Woodstock, Oromocto, St. Mary’s and Madawaska.
Since then, several groups have distanced themselves from that decision, including the Wulustukyik grandmothers and mothers in the encampment.