Enbridge Scheme Rejected

Above: Heiltsuk First Nation demonstrating against Enbridge at Bella Bella on 2 April 2012.

When the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel Process came to Bella Bella, it was greeted by Heiltsuk protesters who wanted to make their position on the Enbridge scheme clear. "We will stand together," says Nuxalk Hereditary Chief Snuxyaltwa, "We are family and neighbours and we are united against Enbridge."

Right: "Oolichan Oil Not Alberta Oil," by Heiltsuk artist Henry Roy Vickers.

5 April 2012. Nuxalk Press Release.

A number of Hereditary Chiefs and Elders of the Nuxalk First Nation of Bella Coola have counseled their elected Chief and Council to withdraw as intervenors from the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel Process for the Enbridge Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project. They say the federal government has already predetermined its approval of the project.

"There is no honour in the federal Crown's approach to consulting with First Nations on the Enbridge project," says Andrew Andy, the elected Chief of the Nuxalk Nation. "Recent statements make it clear that the Prime Minister has already decided to approve the super tanker project that would violate First Nations' Title and Rights and put our coastal waters at risk of a major oil spill."

"How can we participate in a process driven by a government that has labelled us 'socially dysfunctional'?" says Charlie Nelson, a Hereditary Chief of the Nuxalk Nation, referring to recent controversial statements by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

"Where is the honour in the Crown stating that it's prepared to violate our constitutionally-protected Title and Rights before the work of gathering information on the scope of infringement is even done?"

Chief Snuxyaltwa (3 April 2012): Today we are facing a battle to save our coast not from a hurricane, an earthquake or a tsunami but from Enbridge. Even two World Wars could not kill the Northwest Coast. Our mountains have stopped and slowed corporate greed for generations. The government has built roads, cleared most of the forest and exploited the natural environment without settling Nuxalk land claims. Instead of negotiating treaties with the First Peoples, the government continues its greed in exploiting our resources. The Enbridge pipeline will bring tarsands oil to Kitimaat from where it will be shipped at great risk in huge tankers along the coast. Our survival as an Indigenous People and our spiritual connection to the Creator depends on the health of our land and waters. Many of our native leaders are telling us that we must put our lives on the line to fight for Mother Earth and the lives of our grandchildren.

I heard the gifted ten year old girl, Ta'Kaiya Blaney of Sliammon First Nation, singing from her heart for the Animal Kingdom and against the dirty oil Enbridge scheme. In contrast, the highest educated and most powerful leaders of today don't seem to care at all for the welfare of the wild animals and the need to protect their habitat. Some will try to negotiate with these leaders. My answer is 'No' – the 'No' of Ta'Kaiya's song.

Right: Ta'Kaiya Blaney performing at the Heiltsuk led protest against Enbridge in Vancouver, 26 March 2012.

Alanna Andy Gasio (5 April 2012): We the Nuxalk People, in association with other Coast Salish Nations, have been struggling for decades to negotiate with the Canadian government over the control of our hereditary territory rights. Our People are desperately trying to maintain what remains of our natural resources. Now oil pipelines and tankers threaten the pristine forest watersheds of our West Coast. More than can possibly be fathomed, the effect on our resources will be detrimental.

Our lands have already been damaged and left vulnerable by logging companies while they have grown rich. Large areas of the Bella Coola Valley will never again be replenished. Landslides in logged areas destroy our salmon spawning river and stream beds. Other natural disasters include the flooding of our homes, businesses and farm lands. The force of water coming down unstable mountain slopes wipes out bridges, erodes roads and forces new river channels. Numerous non populated places in our lands have also been impacted by logging. What about the destruction of salmon spawning beds and wildlife habitat in these areas, where there is no one to witness the damage?

Above and right: Nuxalk Eulachon Project, 2005. Nuxalk heritage sites have been destroyed and with them disappears the history of our lineage and our families. I learned first hand about the impact of logging to our land from my training in archaeology, when I took part in the Nuxalk Heritage Project. We surveyed land in our outer coastal territory before it was clearcut logged, locating culturally modified trees and village sites. At the same time, we witnessed the longterm negative effects of logging such as slope erosion, destruction of natural water ways, the impact on plant species and wildlife etc.

Nuxalkmc have lost many of our natural resources including the eulachon runs that were once so abundant every year. Eulachon grease was not only a main food staple of our People, it was a great part of our culture. As a child, I remember my Gran sending me down to the Bella Coola River to catch enough eulachon for dinner, using only my hands. Eulachon runs no longer exist in our river as before. Every spring we wait in anticipation hoping this year will be different and the eulachon will return. Now we are forced to buy and trade for eulachon. Our voices have been silenced far too long. Time is of the essence. We must act now to stop the further destruction of the watersheds that remain on our coast.


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