A group of individuals from Williams Lake will be hosting a fundraiser this weekend in support of the work being done by the Tsilhqot’in National Government and its communities to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from mining activity.

Registered nurse Gabriel Zamorano has worked as a remote nurse in Nemiah Valley with the Xeni Gwet’in Nation as well as the Tl’etinqox First Nation during the 2017 wildfire crisis.

“As I’ve been working as a remote nurse and learning more about Indigenous people and completing cultural safety models in regards to working with Indigenous people and working alongside, I’ve had an interest in this area to support the work that is being done by the Tsilhqot’in National Government for a while,” Zamorano says.

“As we started to get into our group and wanting to become more well informed in regards to this specific issue I was really surprised that it’s been ongoing for that amount of time.”

Zamorano says there has been some good news however recently by the BC Supreme Court that has granted an injunction against Taseko’s mine exploratory drilling until a new trial by the Tsilhqot’in Nation is heard.

“I arrived in Williams Lake just over a year ago, and many of my previous engagements in social justice work have been bridged in the community here and because of the work that I was doing on this particular struggle over 10 years ago when I was in Vancouver it was a clear connection to be able to offer some time and energy to be able just to be an ally and support the work that’s being led by the Tsilhqot’in Nation,” says Marla Renn.

The group currently made up of 7 individuals from Williams Lake will be hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Long House in Williams Lake that will feature dinner followed by entertainment and an auction.

They’re hoping to raise $10,000 that will go directly to the Tsilhqot’in National Government’s legal fees.

“The Tsilhqot’in Nation has been at every step of the way in regards to these federal-level court cases at a huge expense of defending their interest in the protection of this land, but also defending their spiritual and cultural heritage of the land that they have further and always been very vocal in regards to in protection of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake),” Zamorano says.

“So that takes even further than a financial burden which is huge, but also a social and cultural burden and it goes against the spirit of reconciliation that the burden has been placed on them further especially in regards to this specific case.”

The Tsilhqot’in National Government has launched its own fundraiser through a GoFundMe campaign and is hoping to raise $40,000.

“Personally I think what’s next is we need to also put some energy and time into supporting and vocalizing to especially our municipal government but also our provincial and federal governments that we really need them to commit to creating some transition plans-what kind of work are people going to be able to do in this community if it’s not necessarily resource-based because we see a lot of transition happening in those areas and people are facing some really difficult economic moments right now,” Renn says.

“It doesn’t have to be an either-or. It’s not a question between protecting the land and respecting First Nation title rights and people being able to put food on their tables, so I think really what’s next is being able to organise and have some community events where we are able to start together across tables of people that have some intention to be able to formulate plans and see what would it mean and how can we push forward to make sure that everybody in this region has a strong economic future.”