A 22,000 square mile tract of land in northern British Columbia is the site of an explosive set of competing ownership claims. In 1984, the Gitxsan people launched a land claim for the entire area, claiming it as unceded Indigenous territory. But since the 1880s, white settlers known to the Gitxsan as the “visitors who never left”, have occupied land there, and their logging operations now maintain several small towns. Tensions rise as the land claim proceeds.
The Hobenshields are the sons of white settlers. After 60 years of logging and living in the valley, they figure they are about as native to this part of the country as you can get. Meanwhile, Art Loring is a Gitxsan wing chief of the Eagle clan. For 17 years he was a logger. Now he’s blockading the Hobenshield brothers’ logging crews from cutting trees on the Eagle’s hereditary lands. Down river, a white couple are building their retirement home on the banks of the Skeena. Thirty members of the Frog clan confront the family, evicting them from what the Gitxsan consider to be their traditional fishing site.
Documenting the daily details of the escalating confrontation for 15 months, acclaimed filmmaker Nettie Wild has framed it as a struggle for environmental preservation, as well as a battle between two histories: the oral history of traditional land use by the Gitxsan, and the legal history of private property and ownership. When the B.C. courts finally reject the historical Gitxsan claim as unreliable, the battle between histories boils over.
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