Teztan Biny, Yanah Biny & Nabas

Morning on Teztan Biny

Morning on Teztan Biny

Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake), Nabas (the homes and area surrounding Little Fish Lake and south of Teztan Biny) and Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) are incredibly rich, and a natural Tsilhqot’in ‘breadbasket’ that forms part of the headwaters of the Dasiqox (Taseko) River. These clean mountain waters have always provided for us and our ancestors, and we will continue to protect them for future generations.

We have deep ancestral connections with these lands and waters.  Many of our members were born and raised at Nabas.  Today, the entire area is actively used by much of the Tsilhqot’in population because it is one of the rare, remaining intact portions of our traditional lands that still supports the cultural practices that make us who we are as Tsilhqot’in: it is an important hunting and trapping area, a critical fishery for our communities, a highly valued place for gathering plants and medicines, the site of spiritual and ceremonial activities and regular community gatherings, and a cultural school for passing down our traditions and culture.  The courts of British Columbia have confirmed that Tsilhqot’in members hold Aboriginal rights to hunt, trap and trade throughout this area.

Unfortunately, the proposed “New” Prosperity mine would cause permanent damage to this culturally important area. The latest proposal still completely destroys Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and large parts of Fish Creek and the Nabas region, which hold  the spawning grounds for Teztan Biny`s unique trout population.  Teztan Biny would be literally surrounded by one of Canada’s largest open-pit mines, with the pit destroying downstream habitat, the lake dammed and the outflow mechanically pumped upstream of the lake, a 35-story tailings dam towering over Teztan, and holding back a 12 square kilometre tailings pond that would eventually leach and could contaminate Teztan Biny and downstream habitat.

Dasiqox (Taseko River) a short distance from Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which is part of its headwaters

Dasiqox (Taseko River) a short distance from Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which is part of its headwaters

Dasiqox (Taseko) River

Teztan Biny and Yanah Biny lie about 1.5 km from the Dasiqox River, draining to the river via lower Fish Creek.  The ecosystem supports more than 85,000 rainbow trout , as well as extremely important wetland habitat for grizzly bear, moose, lynx, other small game and migratory birds.

The Dasiqox is also important wild salmon habitat, forming part of the famous Chilko run that constitutes 25% of all the returning Fraser River wild sockeye.  Lower Taseko Lake, a short distance from Yanah Biny, is the spawning grounds for the wild salmon which migrate up the Dasiqox.  We are very concerned about these stocks, which form a vital part of Tsilhqot’in culture.  We are proud to continue our tradition of strongly protecting the spawning grounds for wild salmon for the benefit of all British Columbians.

A meeting at Yanah Biny in front of a Tsilhqot'in home

A meeting at Yanah Biny in front of a Tsilhqot’in home

Importance of Teztan & Yanah Biny and Nabas

The Tsilhqot’in have occupied and used the area since time immemorial, such that we have place names, homes, graves and important trails which connect our communities and culture.  Families continue to rely on this area, and have homes on Little Fish Lake.  Our ancestors are buried close to here as well.  Important hunting areas in the Upper Dasiqox (Upper Taseko) region are accessed via Nabas.  The area is home to numerous important archaeological sites, spiritual sites, mineral licks, medicine and other food gathering areas, hunting grounds, and annual gatherings.

In response to our communities participation and testimony in the 2010 public hearings, the Federal Panel Report (July 2010) noted:

“extensive information on the deep ancestral connection that the Tsilhqot’in had to Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), Y’anah Biny (Little Fish Lake), and to Nabas” (p. 192).

“… the Panel is convinced that the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas areas are unique and of special significance to the Tsilhqot’in.  The Panel heard from the Tsilhqot’in that the loss of the area for practicing their current use, spiritual and cultural activities would be significant and unmitigable“  (p. 203).

“The Panel has determined that the loss of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas areas for current use activities, ceremonies, teaching, and cultural and spiritual practices would be irreversible, of high magnitude and have a long-term effect on the Tsilhqot’in” (p. 245).

“The Panel observes that the proximity of the open pit and associated mining facilities would be close enough to Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) to eliminate the intrinsic value of the area to First Nations even if another alternative were chosen”   (p. 50).

[The Tsilhqot’in are] “interested in sustainable, culturally appropriate development opportunities that would sustain the local economy for future generations.” (p. 203).

“…the Panel has determined that the effect of the (mine) Project on the established Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights would be irreversible.”   (p. 218).

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada noted the use of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) by the Tsilhqot’in as a reserve food supply in the event of poor salmon runs.  The department noted that the Tsilhqot’in could net large numbers of fish…” (pp. 180-81).

“Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) was identified as an important teaching environment and that many trips were made to the area to teach the Tsilhqot’in language and cultural practices to Tsilhqot’in youth. Many children identified how their families had taken them to Teztan Biny and Y’anah Biny (Little Fish Lake), and adults and elders indicated that this was what had occurred when they were young as well”  (p. 182)

Yanah_Biny_Moose_10P

Moose are regular visitors to Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and an important Tsilhqot’in food source