By Jack Caldwell

One good reason to continue mining exploration is this:  it provides opportunities for the locals to be employed, support their families, and get educated.  A second good reason to explore is that down the way, many discoveries become mines and those mines in turn employ the people who traditionally live in the area.  Thus in the longer term these folk can stay in their traditional areas, become educated, earn a living, and keep their families intact. 

Let us take a look a just one instance of what a local BC community is doing to promote, support, and benefit from exploration and mining.  The story is the story told to me by Pamela Mikolayczyk, whose Gitxsan name is Gam Laa ‘Hiin, Wilps Gutginuxw, Giskaast.  She, like me, has an LLB degree.  That stands in Latin for Bachelor of Laws.  Her’s was earned at the University of Ottawa.  Before becoming a student she was a paralegal, working as an information officer involved with welfare appeals, Canada pension appeals, and other poverty issues.

Then in 2002 BC Premier Gordon Campbell cut funding to the legal services society of BC.  Thus she found herself having to decide on a new career.  Now she is at Roundup representing the School of Exploration and Miningwhich is part the Northwest Community College, Smithers Campus.  And we recommend that you click on the links we provide and take and in-depth look at the details of what they do.  

She has been working as a Team Leader with the College, mentoring and helping students in the class and in the field.  She has worked with students on mineral identification, exploration, and the theory of opening a mine and closing a mine.  She has given encouragement to students younger than she is who have yet to get the life courage that she has.

She is proud of the program which she describes as balanced: students on completion can decide what they wanted to do, choosing anything from exploration to setting up those things that make for sustainability.

There are others from the College at Roundup, but she met with me because of her vision of bridging the gap between First Nations and the mining industry.  This is what she said in a recent speech to graduating students:

I’d like to talk about the vision, hope, and the success of the Reclamation and Prospecting (RAP) program.  What you see here today is a vision for our future in the mining industry.   It’s also part of the reconciliation between First Nations, government and the mining industry.  New opportunities will be realized by many of our students with new relationships between the mining industry and First Nations.  The scope of the RAP program may impact upon geoscience, exploration, discovery, development, production, and reclamation in BC and other regions of Canada.  The mining industry has opened many doors for our graduates for employment.

We chatted in a small tea and coffee shop in Vancouver.  We talked about children (she has a daughter, I have two) and grandchildren (she has two, I have a few more, and she has many more).  We chatted about community and the support that comes from being part of a settled group.  In this regard she told me that she is part of a large, larger group that includes here husband and their families, that we could and should and will one day write about.  We chatted about the Gitxsan language and the fact that only some twenty-five percent of the community speaks the language of the elders.  She said that she hopes her grandchildren can learn the language, just as I wish that mine could learn the tongues of their ancestors, multiple as they are. 

We chatted about the benefits to group solidarity and stability and cohesion that come from having employment nearby.  A job where people can go away, if necessary for a time, but return to the house, the home, the family, and the language, and keep the new and the old in balance.

Now the settled law of the country is that there is a duty to consult.  It is both legally necessary and morally imperative that any person, group, or company seeking to explore or mine in territories of the First Nations must consult. As Pamela says, the old glass plate between the parties must be broken and people must talk to people as individuals.  Seek to benefit from the local knowledge and skills of all.

And her vision is to continue to do whatever opportunities come her way and the way of her people to make sure the glass never rises again and that the people talk in ways that build on the old but incorporate the things we learnt studying for an LLB.  

She showed me a moccasin she made for her granddaughter as part of the course.  This is part of the grounding that people need to be human.  And then as we needed to move on to the opening of Roundup, I gave her my craft, for her grandkids, some origami.

We must talk together again.