For 60 years the Haisla have concentrated on protecting their environment.
Now, says chief councillor Ellis Ross, it is time to expand on that approach.
He raised the subject in his presentation to the Joint Review Panel into the Northern Gateway Project during its January 10 hearings in Kitamaat Village.
“You can’t characterise first nations as being frozen in time,” he told the panel.
“You can’t say, ‘Why is that first nation community not living the same way they did 100 years ago?’ First nations, to survive, have to evolve.”
So while the Haisla, based on its traditional law, has in the past focused on protecting, Ross suggested that had to change to include remediation of the environment.
He pointed out that under the terms of their agreement with the Haisla, KM LNG “has to compensate for loss of habitat out at our … Beese Reserve #6”.
That’s the site for the liquefied natural gas plant and tank farm which the company will be leasing from the Haisla.
“They’ve asked if they could transplant the loss of habitat over to the Kitimat River to help rebuild (it),” he explained.
“We were ecstatic when we heard that,” Ross said. “That’s a really good idea, but it takes an American company, based out of Houston [Texas], to come up with the idea.”
So the Haisla were hoping to start making remediation a priority, and that they could get other companies bringing projects into the area to commit to helping rehabilitate Haisla territory at the same time.
“It only adds value to all the people living in the Kitimat Valley, not just the Haisla,” Ross said.
Interviewed later by the Northern Sentinel he said that the rehabilitation idea raised by KM LNG was just conceptual at the moment.
And that the Haisla would have to get the technical details sorted out and federal Fisheries approval before it went any further.
Ross said the Haisla’s technical personnel were going over data and would be bringing a report with recommendations to the Haisla Nation council once that was done.
“It would be a tremendous asset if we could bring that river back to half of what it used to be,” he added.