Clapperton on Fairy Creek blockade

Stack of folded newspapers

Associate faculty member and historian Jonathan Clapperton discussed the history of environmental activists and Indigenous Nations in BC in an article in the National Observer. The article examines the anti-logging blockade at Fair Creek, which aims to protect old growth forests in the Fairy Creek watershed, and whether it honours Indigenous government and self-determination.

Here’s an excerpt:

But, as in the War of the Woods, Fairy Creek environmentalists’ objectives don’t cleanly jibe with First Nations looking to assert rights, said historian Jonathan Clapperton, associated with Royal Roads University.

Settler environmentalists at blockades are in the shaky position of proclaiming support for Indigenous rights while simultaneously attempting to control forestry in First Nations' territory, said Clapperton, who researches the intersection of Indigenous history and resource use with environmental activism.

“If protesters are refusing to leave even at the request of the local First Nations with authority in their traditional territory, then it’s definitely problematic,” he said. “And it repeats actions that have taken place in the past when we look at the history of environmental protest on Indigenous lands.”


First Nations activists should absolutely have a central role in discussion around resource use in their territories, Clapperton added. But settler conservationists should be leery of determining who has the right to speak for a nation or cherry-picking voices who support their objectives.

Clapperton expressed empathy for old-growth activists under the gun to save rapidly diminishing ancient ecosystems.

“It’s a race of time, and once the trees are gone, there's no going back, but (the sense of urgency) can continue to perpetuate an imbalance of power between white settlers and First Nations.”

Read the full article at the National Observer.