The story of 100 and 34 years
There is no way to describe what happened last week in the Central to Northwest part of British Columbia. There is virtually nothing in recorded history that equals the peaceful exchange of respect provided from one nation to another. More significant is how the more powerful nation accepted a truth and gave up captured territories.
In the Nass Valley, a community of people, the Nisga’a, opened a brand new First Nations cultural exhibit. This is also unequalled. The structure, the concept, the entire museum development with the associated nation to nation understanding, is a display of humanity and community all of mankind needs to become very aware of. It just may be the salvation of our species.
In 1887 a group of Nisga’a Chiefs travelled by water to Victoria to discuss their land. Premier Smithe left them on the steps of the legislature.
On May 11, 2011, 134 years later, a celebration of the return of their culture, their families, their heart was held at Laxgalts’ap, BC (aka Greenville, BC).
One hundred years after the Nisga’a’s initial foray into British politics, 34 years ago, 1977, a contingent of First Nations including Nisga’a, blockaded Douglas Channel. They were protesting the possibility of crude oil tankers, with the associated spillage risk, destroying their way of life.
Understanding a way of life and a culture can not be described in a short report. The best way to demonstrate the value or better, the significance, is to show it.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the missionaries burned Nisga’a cultural items and various collectors took others for private collections and museums. These items have now been returned to the museum, Hli Goothl Wilp-Adokshl Nisga'a, at Laxgalts'ap, BC.
As an entity all its own, the new Nisga'a Museum, which now houses the returned personal items, demands the return from various other museums and private collections all of their ancestral possessions including those at the Ontario Museum, whom have thus far not complied.This is a link to a video compilation of the opening of the new cultural museum at Laxgalts’ap. (48 minutes)
The North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA), an organization representing 40 plus Municipal, District and Regional government bodies gathered in Prince Rupert, the day after the Laxgaults’ap Museum official ceremonies, for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 12th and 13th, 2011. On Thursday, May 12, a gathering of approximately 1000 protesters marched on the convention center. They spent time chanting “We Say No To Enbridge Oil” at the front doors. They drummed and sang songs, then marched around to the front of the complex where NCLGA members were watching from balconies overhead. More protesters were gathered in boats on the water out front in the Prince Rupert Harbour. This is a link to a video compilation of the protest rally against Enbridge at Prince Rupert, BC. (24 minutes)
The NCLGA hired an Enbridge PR spokesman, Kevin Brown, to moderate the entire AGM. Enbridge was a Platinum sponsor for the convention.
Exactly 34 years earlier, on May 13, 1977, the same group, then called the North Coast Municipal Association, accepted $25,000 towards the hosting of their AGM from the Kitimat Pipeline Consortium. Kitimat was the host community and these monies went towards the funding of a cruise ship for the convention which sailed up Douglas Channel from Kitimat, on the proposed tanker route.
Towards the end of Douglas Channel nearer towards Bella Bella, they were met by a flotilla of protest boats who requested they stop and talk. The captain of the Princess Patricia, an Alaskan Cruise ship, refused and in fact increased the speed of the vessel running over one of the protest boats.
In 1977, a Queen Charlotte Regional District director considered the acceptance of the $25,000, a bribe. Once again, the Mayor of the host community in 2011, Prince Rupert’s Jack Mussallem, refused to consider this a bribe and attempted to minimize the impact of Enbridge’s PR spokesperson moderating the convention or Enbridge's financial contribution. Mussallem downplayed the significance of accepting money from a proponent and considered the previous episode, the running over of a protest vessel and the Kitimat Pipeline bribe 34 years earlier unrelated stating people have changed. Read more HERE
Mussallem acknowledged the NCLGA hired the main PR spokesman for Enbridge, Kevin Brown, to be the MC and moderate the convention, stating Brown has his own communications company.This is a link to an interview with the Mayor of Prince Rupert regarding the involvement of Enbridge in the AGM convention of the NCLGA. (Just over 6 minutes)
On the day before the NCLGA convention Andrew Nikiforuk, an award winning author delivered a presentation entitled; 'The Cost of Oil", to various Mayors, representatives and citizens. This was a factual analysis of the issue and his Terrace presentation can be seen by clicking HERE. (41 minutes)
Prior to the protest march in Prince Rupert a declaration was delivered by the Yinka Dene Alliance and Allies titled 'All Nations Statement Of Solidarity Against Enbridge Northern Gateway'WE THE UNDERSIGNED INDIGENOUS NATIONS STATE IN SOLIDARITY:Our Nations are bound together by the water which is our lifeblood. We have protected our lands and waters since time immemorial, each according to our laws and traditions. The waters of Indigenous peoples throughout the lands known as western Canada are being threatened by fossil fuel exploitation and transportation.
We exercise our rights to sustain our cultural and economic well-being. The laws of each of our peoples are deeply embedded in our cultures and practices. These laws have never been extinguished and our authority continues in our lands. Our peoples continue to live by them today.
We have come together on May 10, 2011 in the city of Calgary, Alberta, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to declare to the governments of Alberta, British Columbia and Canada as well as Enbridge Inc., all of its subsidiary bodies, and the domestic and international financial institutions supporting Enbridge, THE FOLLOWING:
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tankers project will expose Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities from the Pacific Coast across to Alberta to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills, just as we have seen recently with Enbridge’s massive spill in Michigan, the recent devastating spill in Lubicon Cree territory, the recent TransCanada pipeline spill in North Dakota, as well as the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster. Tar sands bitumen has been demonstrated to corrode pipelines more rapidly than conventional oil, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic spills. Given the seismic volatility of the region, the recent earthquake in Japan also underlines our grave concerns about the risk of oil spills.
The urgency of global climate change, and the fact that Indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by climate change, also compels us to act.
We have witnessed the Coastal First Nations Declaration banning crude oil tankers on the Pacific North Coast, and the Save the Fraser Declaration banning crude oil transportation through the Fraser River watershed. Each of these Declarations is based in Indigenous law and is an expression of Indigenous decision-making authority.
Enbridge states that it intends to proceed with its Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers, with or without First Nations consent. A decision by Canada to approve this project, without the free, prior and informed consent of affected Nations, will be a violation of our Treaties, our rights, and our laws, and will be in breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international accords.
THEREFORE we stand in solidarity with the Coastal First Nations, and the Nations who have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, and are united in stating that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project, as well as other fossil fuel development projects including Keystone XL, must not proceed without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of all affected First Nations.
AND FURTHER if such consent is not obtained, no construction of such projects shall proceed.
SIGNED in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, at the city of Calgary, May 10 2011.
Nadleh Whut’en First Nation (Yinka Dene Alliance) (BC)
Saik’uz First Nation (Yinka Dene Alliance) (BC)
Takla Lake First Nation (Yinka Dene Alliance) (BC)
Nak’azdli First Nation (Yinka Dene Alliance) (BC)
Blood Tribe (Alberta)
Alexander First Nation (Alberta)
Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation (Alberta)
Lubicon Lake Nation (Manitoba)
Throughout the late 1800’s and the entire 1900’s the Nisga’a have struggled to follow the laws and customs of the white settlers while attempting to maintain the remnants of their culture in an effort to restore it. Only in 1990 did the BC government enter into talks with the Nisga’a. The Nisga’a were not alone in their struggle for recognition, they were just the first to systematically address the problem and keep at it professionally for a dozen decades.This is a link to a common Canadian Native chronology of discriminatory and genocidal practices of the former British colonialists.
The Raven looking out at the entrance of the museum and the Nisga'a cultural dancers. - photos by Cynthia Wunderlich
Honour Guard, Chiefs and Matriarchs of the Nisga'a. Below the Chiefs offer a prayer for their cultural renewal. - photos by Cynthia Wunderlich
A Compilation of photos front the Laxgalts'ap Museum opening. - photos by Cynthia Wunderlich
A compilation of photos from the 'We Say No' rally in Prince Rupert May 12, 2011 - photos by Cynthia Wunderlich