In a release, the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Elders Group, representing Native communities across the North Shore of Lake Huron and beyond, said it is “putting all responsible governments on notice” through a registered letter demanding any aerial spray project approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in the region be “immediately cancelled and stopped.”
Raymond Owl, a member of the TEK Elders Group, said his organization is fed up after many attempts to negotiate with federal and provincial representatives on the environmental issue.
“We started this four years ago, and we’ve run out of patience,” he told Postmedia. “We’ve had demonstrations; we’ve tried to negotiate. But it’s like talking to a rock.”
Owl said the application of herbicides on traditional lands to promote the growth of replanted forests “comes down to a treaty issue,” as First Nations inhabiting the Robinson-Huron Treaty area were “never consulted on spraying.”
The Robinson-Huron lands span a vast area, including North Bay.
“It’s about five million acres, from the height of land to Lake Huron, and from Sault Ste. Marie to past North Bay,” said Owl.
Foresters argue the chemicals used to knock down inferior species competing with planted conifers are less toxic than table salt and won’t impact insects or mammals, but Owl and his fellow elders believe the herbicides kill far more than weeds.
Owl said ongoing issues of bears coming into communities to scavenge for food may well relate to the destruction of natural foods in sprayed areas.
“You might see lots of blossoms on the blueberries but it takes a bee to pollinate the flowers, and if they’re getting killed, you don’t get the berries,” he said. “A bear will only eat grass for so long. That’s what brings them into town, because they have nothing to eat.”