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REPORTING · 10th June 2010
Walter McFarlane

The Gitxsan were next to speaking at the Solidarity Gathering of Nations at Kitamaat Village on Saturday May 29th. They drummed their way to the podium and Delgamuukw took the stand.

He reflected on the Court Case, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, where the Gitxsan Nation claimed ownership over 133 territories or 58,000 kilometres in British Columbia. He said the road to the Supreme Court took 30 years and they received a lot of support.

“We already know, at the preliminary court case, that we own the land. We can stop what we don’t want,” said Delgamuukw.

Ray Jones took the microphone. He thanked the Haisla Nation for playing host to the event. He said when the spill does happen, the salmon runs will not detour around it. The salmon fry, which are in the rivers this time of year, will not detour the oil spills either.

He said he had three perspectives when he took a tour at the Tar Sands: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good was the technology which was being used. The bad was the pits which destroyed the land. The ugly was the government's ability to keep saying yes to the oil companies.

“It’s the government that is going to stab us in the back. That’s what they’re doing to Alberta. The Federal government, that’s what they’re doing up in the Tar Sands to the people around there,” said Jones.

He said down the Athabaska River is Port Chippawan, a collection of 1200 Aboriginal people; Métis and Non Aboriginal people. “For the last 6 to 7 years they’ve had a very extra ordinary high rate of deaths for that population related to the cancer. They were averaging 25-30 deaths a year from cancer. A very very rare form of cancer, some of them,” said Jones. “Those are the kinds of things we don’t hear about too much.”

He was opposed to the pipeline crossing the Morris River as it would wipe out the spring salmon in the Bulkley and the Skeena Rivers. He said our society needs to change our ways, suggesting the USA uses 10,000 barrels of oil a second.

The final speaker of the Gitxsan was Bridie O’Brian. She said the planet is divided by nations, municipalities, Regional District, communities each with jurisdiction and decision making authority over their piece of land.

“We have boundaries that we consider and we protect. But when we make reference to our waters, to our fish and to our wildlife, they know no boundaries. A lot of those resources criss cross into my territory, into your territory, into your municipality. It is our responsibility to hold and protect those resources for the time they are in my backyard. And when we are faced with monsters such as corporations and industry and commercialization to the point where we cannot fight that fight as a municipality, as a nation or independently, we have that responsibility to our neighbour to stand together and stand together and fight the fight together. For your fish are my fish, your water is my water and your wildlife are my wildlife and we need to fight the fight together,” said O’Brian.

She encouraged all assembled to stand together and fight the fight. She stated those which came before also fought for the rights of the people today and when we become ancestors to a new generation who will be able to walk the land and drink the water and be proud of what we did.