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Dene at highway site for one month to protect their land from oil and uranium extraction

The Dene checkpoint continues on Highway 955.

The Dene checkpoint continues on Highway 955.

A group of Dene trappers is maintaining a presence on the side of Highway 955 near La Loche, Saskatchewan to highlight the impact of oil and mineral exploration on the land their people have lived from for centuries. La Loche is located in Treaty 8 territory about 600 kilometres north of Saskatoon and about 100 kilometres east of Fort McMurray.

On November 22, the trappers set up a peaceful blockade on the highway to stop vehicles from companies that are drilling for minerals, oil or uranium and disrupting their trapping area. Their stated intention was to hold the blockade until Christmas or beyond.

The next day, the Council of Canadians Saskatoon chapter issued a statement of solidarity highlighting, “We acknowledge the right of the Dene people to self-determination on their land and, in particular, the right of those who live closest to the land to determine what types of development do and do not occur on their land.” The chapter also made a donation of $200 to the camp.

But by December 1, the RCMP had served an injunction against the blockade on behalf of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure. Despite the police towing away their camper-trailer, the group has maintained a checkpoint on the highway since then.

Among the issues the Dene have been drawing attention to is the permit granted the Calgary-based energy company Cenovus for a 30,000 barrel per day tar sands operation which would include nearby Axe Lake, the impacts of the Cluff Lake uranium mine about 60 kilometres outside of La Loche, and Kelowna-based Fission Uranium surveying to set up a mine in the Athabasca Basin.

To see a 6-minute video that highlights how companies have disrespected the Dene people, trespassed on their territory, ripped apart their land, and left oil barrels and other industrial waste in nature, please click here. The video concludes with the message, “The Northern Trappers Alliance wants to be consulted by industry and the community leaders. They want the industrial waste that has been left behind cleaned up and that the Dene people decide how to use their land.”

The Northern Trappers Alliance is still in need of our support and is seeking donations and supplies. A fundraiser to support this cause will take place on Friday January 9 at 7 pm at The Exchange in Regina. The Council of Canadians Regina chapter has been helping to promote this. For more information on that event, please click here.

For ongoing updates on the situation, please see their Facebook page Holding the line – Northern Trappers Alliance.

Photo: The Dene checkpoint continues on Highway 955.