REPORTING · 3rd December 2011
One week ago, on Friday, November 25, 2011, the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) took the extraordinary step of unanimously supporting a single project for the Provincial Governments “Community Recreational Grant Program”. They had more applicants and could have even listed their choices in order of preference, but they were steadfast and determined. The Gitxsan Nation had worked so hard, united and together for this one dream, the new Sports Arena to replace the crumbling Ken Trombley Memorial Arena in Hazelton, they decided they would risk everything to show their support for the Gitxsan people and their demonstration of unity by offering the Province no other alternatives.
Elmer Derrick may have just flushed that new found hope and dream of a unified people down the toilet. Just what did Enbridge promise him? He claims one fortieth of ten percent. That made one media spokesperson openly chuckle.
Three and a half years ago Derrick did essentially the same thing. He heads up the Gitxsan Treaty Office (GTO) and the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS). Without consulting the Gitxsan people he held a media conference and announced to the world a new Gitxsan Governance Structure. The Gitxsan people heard about it first through the media just like today they are hearing they suddenly support Enbridge on the nightly news.
Even Derrick fumbled badly when asked who he speaks for and where he gets his authority he had the following answers to these questions;
Listen the the entire media conference call announcing this deal, between Enbridge and Derrick, by clicking on the attached audio file below
Are the Band Councils on Board with this decision?
I don’t know […] I haven’t solicited any opinions from the Band Councils
Can you legitimately speak for all the people?
Our title holdings (referring to being a Hereditary Chief) have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.
But you didn’t confer with any of those elected officials?
Well we send out information and talk to ah, we’ve been talking to as many people as possible in the past six years.
Who was actively participating in reaching this agreement with Enbridge, just you?
No input from Band Councils but we have a staff
Was it ultimately your decision then?
Not necessarily, I just do the negotiations for the nation.
Do the actual members of the first nation support this, do you even know?
Most of them do.
How do you know?
Just from talking to people.
So, no consultation, no referendum, no Chief meetings, no community polling, no input whatsoever, “just from talking to people”, and that is good enough for Elmer and Enbridge to host an international media scrum.
After the 2008 fiasco with his announced “Alternative Gitxsan Governance Model” the Nation became somewhat fractured. Lawsuits were filed and challenges to authority were levelled.
On October 2 of 2008, a world renowned Gitxsan and widely published author on aboriginal matters, Neil Sterritt, wrote a letter critiquing the dictatorial approach of the GTO.
“As a Gitxsan person and former leader, my personal vision is of an umbrella organization that is a positive, respectful, uniting force for all Gitxsan people, rather than one that arbitrarily polarizes and divides the people.”
The response from the GTO ignored the unity issue and focused almost entirely on attacking the Indian Act and the Band Councils; not a whisper of compromise and conciliation.
Clashes of authority took on such a heightened exchange that a Band Council made a resolution in December 2009 to burn down an unauthorized building being constructed on reserve land using funds provided by Derrick and the GTO; and burn it they did. The claim at the time was the Hereditary Chiefs were attempting to re-establish the Village Community of Gisega’as, which had been incorporated into the village of Gitanmaax in 1947/48. This was a direct challenge to the authority of the Band Council who had filed a lawsuit earlier in 2009. The lawsuit had Village Councils and Hereditary Chiefs on one side with the GTO and Hereditary Chiefs on the other. This all happened during the emotionally trying time after the RCMP hunted down and shot a young native man in the bush at a hunting cabin just a few miles north.
Two years later the GTO had provided the seed capital for the new Hazelton Ice Arena and Sports complex, which saw all organizations and Villages jump on board; Native and non-Native alike. The municipal and regional authorities all joined in, which culminated in last week’s phenomenal declaration at the Regional District Kitimat Stikine.
One can only wonder if Chief Derrick will have a moment of clarity and recognize the harm he has perpetrated.
A real Hereditary Chief only speaks for his people when he consults with his people and gets the authority to deliver their decision. Chief Derrick did not do this most primary function.
When asked why he chose now to make this announcement he answered this way.
Why did you chose now to sign?
The opportunity to sign today that’s all
How much did the announcement this week by many First nation that didn’t support the pipeline or tankers influence today’s announcement.
I really wasn’t aware, unfortunately, of the details of the announcement that came out yesterday or the day before. So this announcement today has no bearing on what’s been done over the past day or so.
Just another coincidence it appears, only a couple of days after a united statement of solidarity by BC First Nations communities, Enbridge suddenly makes a signing opportunity available for Chief Derrick.
It should also be pointed out Derrick has been working on securing the position of the pipe pig owner and operator. It was announced over a year ago how the GTO was negotiating with Enbridge to secure the entire ownership of the pig function.
This is a unit specifically designed to travel inside the pipe inspecting the interior surfaces for corrosion and security.
Has this anything to do with your attempt to own the pig?
We haven’t talked about specifics but we’re hopeful that we’ll get some opportunities to enable some Gitxsan contractors to actually do some major works for the project.
The safety of the pipe should be of considerable importance to those who have it traversing their lands.
How many kilometres of that pipeline will run through your nation’s territory?
There is actually none that will run through our territory.
How do you think your decision will affect your relationship with other first Nations in the Area?
Hopefully it will not impact our relationship negatively, we’ve always been frank with our opinions on different projects and we respect the positions taken by the other First Nations, our neighbours.
At the end of the day will it be Hereditary Chiefs who decide how the money is spent?
It’ll be, ah, it’ll be ah, it’ll involve the whole community.
So you don’t really have a structure for the money will be distributed?
Oh, we do.
So how will you consult the community?
Well we ah, um, like we always do, we have continual meetings with everybody.
Where does the decision making process end?
Well there will be a board and professional administrators.
Thank you Wise One
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 6th December 2011
Yes, it is very important to do your research and just as important to share your findings, as Wise One has done. Here is a link to one of the stories on the pipeline spill on Pehdzeh Ki First Nation lands:
Comment by The Wise One on 5th December 2011
Enbridge had a huge oil spill in the Northwest Territories this spring, only to hide it for weeks...the first initial release was 15 barrels. The latest results, hundreds of loads of contaminated soil and it took months to remove.
The band affected Pehdzeh Ki First Nation.
Tribal Council Name: Dehcho First Nation.
Research, research and research.
The TRUE Enbridge rises!
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 4th December 2011
I think this does not reflect badly on the Gitxsan Nation at all! Enbridge found a weak link and exploited that link! I think this shows Enbridge for the Shysters that they really are, divide and conquer is their policy! This was the act of a BULLY, did the Enbridge reps not think there was something wrong when one person showed up to sign the document! They should be ashamed of their business tactics! As the Gitxsan people didn't seem to be properly informed or consulted I hope this document can be declared null and void in court if need be! Maybe others will now realize what Enbridges business TACTICS really are! Enbridge should be ashamed of what they tried to pull off here!
Comment by ed on 3rd December 2011
People in this area who read the terrace daily will here both sides of this story. People who live around the rest of the world will only here that the Gitsxan support enbridge . Others will just think the Gitsxanwere seduced by the big money. This is the sort of thing that gets people thinking natives only care about the Earth until the price is right. A long court battle will now follow over who has authority, but the pipeline will already be leaking by the time this is over.
Just to be clear on who the Regional district represents
Comment by Jim Smith on 3rd December 2011
To the north, the tlingit and Tahltan. In the central areas the NIsga'a and the Tsimshian, to the south the Haisla and the east, some wetsuweten peoples. So if this group of people were all supporting the Gitxsan to have Derrick perform this act of nonscense is a freak of nature. The gitxsan need to find a manner to censure this person before he does more harm
When will these Chiefs stop!
Comment by Embarrassed To be Gitxsan on 3rd December 2011
Ok. As a gitxsan woman Me and my family have always known who we are and where we come from! My grandmother taught my family how to preserve from the lands. Always remember to put back what you take and use!
I believe all land should be protected no matter who it belongs to. This is very sad to see Gitxsan in a very negative headline... Gitxsan Treaty Society stands alone and dishes money out in many stupid ways.. Where will this 7 billion go? Who will
It benifit? Some of these gitxsan communitIes are in 3rd party management like we see poor people on the news because of stupid people like mr Derrick! People thinking they are helping their People!
I am Gitxsan and will stand behind "Everyone"
Who opposes the pipeline not just bacauce I'm Gitxsan because I care about the future of our world!
VERY well written, SHAR!
Comment by Maggie Jo on 3rd December 2011
Thank you, Shar.
Again, very well written.
The Next Step...
Comment by Shar on 3rd December 2011
The GTO is masking their power by saying they follow the Gitxsan tradition, but as we know, this is not true. They basically have self proclaimed themselves as leaders through the feast system. The question is how do we stop them? We need to find a cultural and legal pundit familiar with our traditional system (feast, matriarchal, etc), the current constitution and the legal system.
Fundamentally, what has happened, is virtually unheard of, except for dictating countries. The very act of 'Agreement' without thorough consultation is, in my humble opinion, proof that there is an air of disconnect with reality. Mr. Derrick may have thought he was doing the 'ignorant' Gitxsan favours, but in reality, there are only a few who will prosper from this agreement and many who will suffer. What is equally disturbing, is the fact that for many decades, the Gitxsan have been heralded as the 'tough' first nation, the 'strong' first nation, the first nation group who has brought the nations of our country through one the darkest times of our history with the victory of Delgamuuxw. I have held my head high for decades riding on the wings of Mr. Muldoe. The problem is, I suppose, that a few have been in positions to exploit the respect earned by Delgamuuxw.
Today, I read a comment where a few individuals who have long heralded our strength, the beauty of our territory, the integrity of our culture, have decided that as a people we do not have those traits any more. One even stated, "I have, today, thought about taking down these beautiful carvings, and burning them!". The signing of the agreement is detrimental to our society on so many levels that we have yet to witness the true and far outreaching outfall, both economically and socially.
Current day situation finds our nation divided, in exactly how many camps I do not know. This is the perfect setting for things to go awry, as we have been privy to having a front row seat for yesterday.
How do we stop this? THIS now involves all of us, the Gitxsan nation. Now, it is up to the Gitxsan nation to rite this overturned vessel and salvage what we can. What has happened is a breach of all that is our traditional ways. Indeed, we do have the wisdom among us to pull our nation back together.
I end this with a request to all Gitxsan people. Think about your words carefully, think about your actions, do no go out and 'spit and shout' your disagreement in public. Speak to your elders and find out as much as you can about what has happened, do not regurgitate other's opinions, find your voice. This is an opportunity to grow Spiritually, as a people and as a Gitxsan citizen. I am still a proud Gitxsan woman, I hail from the house of Ladaax, my name is Wihl Buun and I denounce the Gitxsan Treaty Office/Society.
If you are a legal wordsmith, I would love to work with you to create a letter that denounces the GTO, that reinforces our culture, and withdraws the agreement with Enbridge. Email: shar,,,sharwilson.com, sharwilson14,,,gmail.com. Ha'mi'ya'a!
A Gitxsan against Enbridge
Comment by Diane on 3rd December 2011
Yesterday I came home and logged onto facebook to catch up with the latest goings on with friends and family. I was stunned to read the article outlining how Elmer Derrick has once again stepped forward, most likely independantly, and claimed to be speaking for the Gitxsan Nation. I was outraged at this. He claims that they have continual meetings with everyone?
Shame on him for doing this! Especially while so many of our people were busy saying final good byes to an elder. SHAME!
Last night another Gitxsan set up a group on facebook called GITXSANS AGAINST ENBRIDGE (http://www.facebook.com/groups/288175104554452/ ), within the first minutes she had 103 that joined. Today that number is up to 380!
Comment by Lorinda Campbell on 3rd December 2011
saddened by this decision that has cast a shadow over our nation..I am Gitxsan and proud of it ...this goes against our Protect the land and it will always provide for our people that i was taught as a child. I say no to enbridge pipe line and will stand my ground when they try break ground
Comment by ernie wilson on 3rd December 2011
elmer derrick is unelected & self appointed to the post of Gitxsan nations representative, he is running around signing financial deals in the Gitxsan nations name never telling the corporations hes entering into contract with hes is unelected & self appointed nor is he telling them that 4 elected Gitxsan band offices along with a team of hereditary chiefs are sueing him in court to stop him from claiming to be the Gitxsan nations representative.
Comment by Paul Repstock on 3rd December 2011
If the pipeline is ever built, Mr. Elmer has just demonstrated that he is eminently suited to make the first internal inspection passage. After all, his thirty pieces of silver is to be known as the 'owner of the pig'.
Comment by Maggie Jo on 3rd December 2011
HOW are these Chiefs even elected in?!
And why is there such consistency in limited accountability?!
O Canada...what will become of this land when the Indian GodFathers rule with such lack of accountability and justification.
Divide and conquer
Comment by Karen on 3rd December 2011
Enbridge may have found one patsy amongst thousands but I don't see this as the beginning of a successful divide and conquer tactic. Derrick is obviously a slimy, money grubbing fool who, instead to paying attention to his people's stance on the Northern Gateway project, has completely focused on a chance to become some big shot with a pig (kinda fitting).
There will always be those in the crowd that only look after their own greedy interests, to the detriment of the masses, but it does not mean a crack has occured in the stance against this highly unwanted pipeline.
Enbridge, for every fool you dig out of the woodwork there are thousands who will stand by their convictions to ensure you never build on their land. I don't think you, and your single-minded drive for profits, understand just how deep those convictions go. To you, everything has a price but, trust me, even you can't afford this one.
Comment by Nox Gyes, House of Gwininitxw on 3rd December 2011
Elmer and the others at GTS have clearly demonstrated that they don't represent our Gitxsan people. It is time for all of us, Gitxsan people to stand up and demand that GTS be shut down! We don't need our own people selling us out!!!!
Comment by barryeng on 3rd December 2011
I presently have a lot of First Nations art on the walls and shelves of my home. It would be a real shame if I have to take down and hide all this beautiful work, because one person has so embarassed his own people, and me, to a point that I can no longer be proud of their art and heritage.