A freight railroad operated by the Canadian National Railway stretches approximately 3,000 miles from Halifax in the country's east to a port on the Pacific Ocean in the remote northwest. Here, in this heavily forested region, a group of First Nations people called the Gitxsan has resided for thousands of years.
A dispute over land now has Gitxsan hereditary chiefs threatening to grind trade along that route to a halt. If the British Columbia (B.C.) government doesn’t address the Gitxsan’s concerns by Sept. 16, the group’s leaders say they could begin service disruptions along the railway through their territory, escalating a longstanding feud with the province.
Last month, chiefs served what they called “eviction notices” to the national railway, logging companies and sportfishing operators, asking them to halt commercial activities in the aboriginal people’s sleepy territory. Additional police have been dispatched.
“Everything is on the table until we get our desired result,” said Beverley Clifton Percival, a negotiator for the Gitxsan who also goes by her First Nations name, Gwaans.