For.The.Wild. InTheField: NUSKMATA (Jacinda Mack) on the Gold Rush That Never Ended /160
From roller coaster rides at Disney World to museums dotting the Pacific Northwest coast, symbols of mining and the Gold Rush remain deeply enshrined in the collective imagination of the mythic West. Hidden beneath this cultural veneer, the material realities of today’s superscale mining are often out of sight, out of mind. In this week’s In The Field episode, we trace the historical contours and material legacy of the mining industry across so-called British Columbia, unearthing stories from a region that bears an estimated 1,100 abandoned mines, 150-year-old mining laws, and more mining exploration companies than anywhere else on Earth. Guided by the raw testimony of mother, water protector, and organizer Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack), we begin our journey in Secwepemc territory around T'exelc, also known as Williams Lake in south central B.C., an area that experienced one of the most devastating mining disasters in world history. The Mount Polley spill of 2014—for which there still has been no compensation—leaked 26 billion litres of toxic copper and gold mining waste into the Fraser River watershed, a complex network of arteries that birth and sustain life in this region. Giving voice to the frontlines of this sacrifice zone and the true cost of modern mining, Nuskmata unveils the multifarious, masked faces of this predatory, polluting industry and a government equally complicit. What has unfolded at Mount Polley is not an exception; it is the lawful rule in a region where there is little to no accountability for the theft of land and lives.
“This Gold Rush never ended… It got a new storefront.” — NUSKMATA (JACINDA MACK) / EPISODE 160
Photo: Chris Clark
Featured on For The Wild in 2018, Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack) is from the Secwepemc and Nuxalk Indigenous peoples of modern day British Columbia, Canada. She has a Master of Arts degree in Communications and has worked with Indigenous communities as a community organizer, researcher and advocate on environmental protection issues, including critical response to the 2014 Mount Polley Mine Disaster. At the time of this interview, Nuskmata was leading First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), a coalition of women leaders advocating mining reform in B.C. Today, Nuskmata continues to consult on mining and Indigenous rights and title in Canada. She lives in the mountains of the northwest coast of Canada, where she continues to salmon fish, hunt, and gather traditional foods with her family. Moving from heartfelt reflections shared along the banks of the Fraser River to impassioned kitchen-table chats, this timely and important conversation pierces the heart of capitalism and our fossil-fuel-hungry, luxury-driven culture. What are we willing to sacrifice in the name of modernity?—Nuskmata and Ayana greet such questions with the full force of radical honesty, vulnerability, and grief this issue truly deserves. Uplifting the untold story of mining, this episode braids together the history of the Gold Rush and colonization in B.C., the state of salmon, the practice of free, prior, and informed consent, dirty mining for a “clean” energy revolution, and the urgent necessity of reform. Radiating the brilliance of life around her, Nuskmata paints a picture of Indigenous sovereignty, generational resilience, unbounded love of place, and Earth’s creations that yearn for our active participation. ♫ Music by Cary Morin, Compassion Gorilla, Lynx and the Servants of Song, The Mynabirds, The Melawmen Collective & The Honey Tongues TAKE ACTION Please consider supporting local communities and Indigenous communities on the frontlines of metal and mineral mining—those working to radically transform the mining industry to preserve wildlands, ancestral territory, sacred sites, and critical watersheds for all. As a starting point, check out the following organizations: First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, Fair Mining Collaborative, Salmon Beyond Borders, and BC Mining Law Reform. Wherever this podcast reaches you, we encourage you to get more involved in local mining, resource extraction, and land defense issues. Here are a few pressing projects we’ve been following that we hope you’ll take the time to learn more about: The Palmer Project, a proposed copper, zinc, gold and silver mine is sited at the headwaters of the Chilkat River on unceded Chilkat Tlingit territory. Support! Pebble Mine, a proposed open-pit copper and gold in Bristol Bay, southwest Alaska, threatens the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run and lifeways of local residents and Indigenous communities. Sign up for action alerts. Imperial Metals permit application and proposed mining exploration in the Skagit River headwaters, that, if approved by the B.C. government, will see the building of an access road, surface trenches, drill pads and exploratory pits up to 2,000 metres deep. Read up on the transboundary salmon rivers of Southeast Alaska and Northwest B.C. Teck Resources recently withdrew its application to build the $20-billion Teck Frontier Mine, the largest-ever open pit tar sands mine sited on Dene & Cree territory in so-called Alberta. This win is a direct reflection of the tireless work spearheaded by Indigenous-led campaigns and frontline communities - from direct action to legal challenges - and serves as a powerful reminder that we must continue to stand in solidarity with those most threatened by extractive projects. While holding the larger, systemic forces at play in our modern waste regimes, we invite you to reflect on the true cost of your material footprint and feel into your embodied experience of the metals, fossil fuels, papers, plastics that pass through your hands on a day-to-day basis. Is there space & capacity for your consumption habits to shift? How might we collectively reclaim the felt sense of joyful, pleasurable abundance from the grips of mass resource extraction? RESOURCES & RECOMMENDATIONS Since this interview, Nuskmata has left First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining and joined the team at Madii Lii in northern B.C., an Indigenous-led team that has regained control and occupation of their traditional lands in Gitxsan Territory on the Skeena River. To learn more about their work on Indigenous systems change, ancestral governance, and cultural revitalization programs, please visit their website. For The Wild’s first interview with Nuskmata: Jacinda Mack on the Planetary Cost of Luxury / Episode 81. They Called Me Number One and Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival, two books written by Bev Sellars, Nuskmata’s mother & former councillor and chief of the Xat'sull (Soda Creek) First Nation. Learn more about the Mount Polley mine spill in The Narwhal’s two-part, investigative piece, featuring an interview with Nuskmata: Year four: Tracing Mount Polley’s toxic legacy & Lake interrupted. Check out “A Just(ice) Transition is a Post-Extractive Transition” guide (from this selection of readings) to learn more about the cost of renewable energy and the transition-mining nexus. Further readings & resources on B.C.’s mining issues: Unravelling B.C.’s landmark legislation on Indigenous rights (Linnitt, 2019) “B.C.’s ‘archaic’ mining laws urgently need update: 30 groups” (Pollon, 2019) “How B.C. proposes to roll back industry self-regulation” (Lavoi, 2018) “Undermining Our Future: How Mining’s Privileged Access to Land Harms People and the Environment” (MiningWatch, 2004)