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13th March 2019

“The Redcap area has medicine that we use for diabetes and there is some cancer medicine up there. There are important herbs up there that we use. I’m a survivor of cancer with no treatment of any kind besides the power of creation, our language and the ceremony that we have,” Roan said.

While families get many staple foods from the stores in town, hunting wild game and foraging wild berries are an important part of life. An elk or moose can feed several families, and all parts of the animal are used — even the bone marrow is used to make bone broth. Families only take from nature what they need, nothing more.

Many years ago, wild carrots and potatoes could be harvested and there were plenty of animals to feed the community. But industry’s influence has expanded year after year, and “now places that were life-giving — full of medicinal plants, berries and clean water — central places that we needed as humanity…these areas that were needed, they’ve destroyed them,” Melvin Nadue, another community elder, told The Narwhal in December. Nadue passed away from cancer on Feb. 6 at the age of 69.

Roan, Nadue and other camp members hope their spiritual sovereignty will be respected by Teck — their ability to maintain and practice their spirituality on land their ancestors have inhabited for the past 10,000 years. But they’re concerned not only because the mine threatens the water, but because it could also destroy their medicinal plants and further disrupt elk and moose habitats.

“Part of the reason we came out here is to preserve the Cree ways of life and the Cree identity, our language and our connection to the land — and we do that by living with the elements and as one with nature, not by being in the press or having big political fights, so we’re very cautious about how to go about protecting our water,” Jason Zorthian, 38, who was born at the camp, told The Narwhal.

The late Nadue wanted the area’s spiritual and cultural significance to be shielded from the influence of industry.

“We’re trying to protect this area because we need it. Our kids are going to need it, my kids, my grandchildren will need this area for survival,” Nadue said. “I want this place protected. I want it to be left alone. I want it to be left alone as a God-given space where the natural law can be heard from.”

“Why did we create a Jasper National Park, a Banff National Park? Why can’t we create something like that for Indian people where they can preserve this identity?” he said.

“Maybe there are other people out there that wish to live like this, and they can come here, and it’ll be like a sanctuary.”