The growing push by Canada’s First Nations for sovereignty

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The Atikamekw are the latest to declare sovereignty over their ancestral territory in a bid to control resources

LA TUQUE, Canada — For years, members of the Atikamekw First Nation have watched trucks rumble through their traditional territory, carrying out load after load of timber, only to see the profits slipped into others’ pockets. Recently, exploration companies have begun searching for rare metal and gold deposits on the land, a vast stretch of Canadian wilderness nearly the size of Maine. And like many First Nation tribes, the Atikamekw have had enough.

Atikamekw leaders declared sovereignty over the 31,000 square miles of boreal forest in north-central Quebec earlier this month in a bid to control the extraction of resources on their land. This week they issued another statement saying they won’t allow forestry work to continue on their ancestral land without their approval. The moves came after a game-changing Supreme Court decision this summer that recognized the rights of a First Nation in British Columbia to its ancestral territory. Now many tribes are examining if and how they can exert more control over the land they claim as theirs. Read More