On Sunday, December 30th, the Haisla First Nations, and many supporters gathered at the Entrance of Kitimat City Centre Mall as a part of the Idle No More Movement. They recognized this is Haisla Territory and land.WATCH A VIDEO COMPILATION HERE
Burton Amos, the Haisla artist who put this event together, stated there have been artifacts found in this region which date back 9000 years.
Amos stated Chief Theresa Spence is meeting with the government concerning First Nations issues, notably issues around the environment. He expressed the Bituminous Sands were a concern, because in Alberta, where they are harvested: “People are getting sick, animals are getting sick, it’s culling all the wildlife, the bears, the wolves, are getting cancer and the government hired people to hunt them down and bury them. The people in the reserves and the surrounding area are all getting sick, cancer and all kinds of stuff and the government said it’s a pre-existing condition but according to the natives living there, it happened after the tar sands started,” said Amos.
He expressed mining have the same effect on people and the people do not have a voice. Change will not happen until people stand up and say something.
“That’s why I started this. I was tired of being one of those people waiting for someone else to make the change,” said Amos. “If you wait for someone else to do something about it, it’s not going to happen.”
He wished to get the message of a young girl from Courtenay BC across: “we have to be the change”.
“We are all in this together, whether we are Native, or Non Native. I think it’s more important for the Natives to speak up because historically, we have been saying to everybody that we are the stewards of the land, we are responsible,” said Amos.
Jo-Anne Ross, a Kitamaat Village Councillor speaking on her own behalf, expressed she believed in the cause and was thankful Amos took it and ran with it. She expressed the Kitamaat Council was watching to see what the outcome would be.
Gerald Amos got up to speak next. He told the story of how contact was first made in 1793 at Costy Island with Captain Vancouver. The first act of contact was a sharing, a welcoming to their territory. Two 70 pound spring salmons were given and Vancouver gave other presents back.
“That’s how it started. An act of good will. This new relationship has been all downhill since then simply because the resources in our territory, salmon minerals, forests, are so valuable that money became the only part of the bottom line that anything to the government and industry and I think that’s what this Idle No More movement is all about. It’s about restructuring the relationship between the First Nations people and the government and industry,” said Gerald Amos.
He pointed out if they cannot get the relationship right to the point where everyone prospered and can take advantage of the resources in their territory, than they would not have a chance of making things work elsewhere in the world. People around the world were already killing each other over control.
Gerald Amos stated change means a shift in the way we treat each other and this is not apparent in the way Stephen Harper is leading Canada. Canada is going in the wrong direction and it is being recognized around the world. Bills like Bill C45 are being used to silence people who care about their grandchildren, homelands and reconciliation.
He thanked the non-First Nations people who were standing with them. “Our responsibility is to make sure, this movement has enough momentum to change the way Stephen Harper is dealing with his responsibility. He is responsible to us, he is responsible to my grandchildren and to your children and grandchildren. But he’s going nowhere near achieving true responsibility as a leader in my opinion,” said Gerald Amos.
One person who was attending commented these bills were not being publicized in the media because if people realized what was in them, they would fight to save the land and water. He expressed this bill was nothing but a way of pushing Enbridge through.
Darlene Hudson expressed she does not know who Stephen Harper is. She has never met him. God gave the First Nations the land, not Harper. “It is up to us to protect our land. It is up to us to use our voices now,” said Hudson.
Burton Amos spoke again, stating he does not know what to say, he is simply an artist. “We got to make a change. We have to stand up and speak, we have to get involved. If we want this change to happen, if we want to keep this valley the way it is. We have to get involved,” said Amos.
He stated Stephen Harper has gone to China and signed an agreement. He came back and signed legislation removing protection from our sources of water. He told those assembled because of this, China can stripe mine anywhere but the National Parks.
“China can go in and do whatever they want. There is a secret bill that’s been signed. Apparently, China has the right to sue us if we don’t let them do it now because of the agreement that Harper signed. He did that without consultation to the Native people of Canada and we have to hold them accountable to that because we’re responsible to the land, because we’ve been here longer than them. This is our land and our children’s land and our grandchildren and their grandchildren. It’s up to us to stand up and be a good example to our children,” said Amos.
Gerald Amos suggested being a First Nations Artist was important because of the way their culture was dismantled. The stories, totems, masks and regalia were burned. Artists are stepping up to keep these movements going. He added hoped to see an artist movement on the Northwest.
Burton Amos stated he was happy to see as many people out as came out. It was time for the singers and Dancers to come forward but the day was not over. Those assembled would march to the Center of town to complete their protests.