The Office of the Wet’suwet’en for Wet’suwet’en Nation had attended a special invite by Gitxaala Nation (Kitkatla) where they gave a presentation to Enbridge on May 3.
This invite was to witness the words given to Enbridge from the Gitxaala People.
Gitxaala is on the proposed tanker traffic route that would ship oil to the Asian markets that would be delivered to Kitimat through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.
The Gitxaala People wanted to ensure that Enbridge thoroughly understood their stance against the proposed route and the severe ecological/cultural impacts that would affect their traditional lands/culture, and people.
It is extremely unfortunate that the representatives from Enbridge had decided they would need an RCMP escort in order to feel comfortable in this respectful and peaceful village.
The Gitxaala hereditary leaders of the nation felt highly disrespected by Enbridge that they had assumed that they would be in need of protective security for themselves while in the Gitxaala community.
As invited guests we could see that the community, as a whole, felt ashamed that a presentation to Enbridge representatives would involve bringing in members of the RCMP to this isolated community when there were no intentions of the people to warrant this.
The representatives of other Nations that attended to witness were also astonished to see the RCMP. As guests, we were treated with the highest of respect and felt secure and were highly honoured to have been invited to this event.
As Gitxaala hereditary leaders, and honoured guests know, when you are representing your community, there is a sense of place, and pride that you feel while trying to do honour to your people.
For those of us who are strongly connected spiritually to the land, to hear the Gitxaala youth speaking from their heart to the representatives for Enbridge was inspiring.
They spoke about their future, their foods, and their cultural teachings that would be affected by just the oil tanker traffic and not a spill, pulled at your heartstrings and made many in the crowd wipe away tears.
How can you not feel the loss, the fear in these young people as they try to convince a large entity to stop a destruction of their way of life?
A traditional feast was prepared to show the foods that would be affected with a spill occurrence; Gitxaala hereditary chiefs in regalia were announced in and seated as per Tsimpshean custom. After eating, the honoured guests from visiting nations were allowed speak on the meeting; then each Gitxaala hereditary began to speak on their house territory.
It was at this time, Enbridge announced that they were leaving adding insult above the hurt of having the RCMP as an escort come into the remote community.
When First Nations hereditary dress in their traditional chieftain regalia, it is to show their status as a chief for their house territory, and their words are on behalf of their people.
Enbridge representatives showed that they did not care to listen to a people who will be highly impacted by their project. Enbridge representatives showed no compassion for Gitxaala as they walked away from their leadership.
Gitxaala leadership was very clear to Enbridge that the proposed tanker route would severely impact their territories, whether there was an oil tanker accident or not.
The mere fact that there would be such massive ships passing through the area would disturb the sensitive coastline and ecosystems. If they factor in the high possibility of a sinking of one of these ships, then the destruction would be irreparable.
The elected chief and council described the affects of this as “Being the same as cultural genocide, if you destroy our territories then you destroy our culture. Once the culture dies then the people are destroyed. We cannot allow this to happen to our territories and our people”, said elected chief councillor Elmer Moody.
It was made very clear to the Wet’suwet’en, and other First Nations that the Gitxaala people have the same view of this proposed project that the Wet’suwet’en do – No to Enbridge!
We are so fortunate to have such a strong and proud people that share the same concerns as the Wet’suwet’en and so very honoured that they had invited us to witness their statements to Enbridge.
On behalf of all Wet’suwet’en, we would like the opportunity to thank them for their statements and for being as honest and forthcoming to the Enbridge representatives.
Office of the Wet’suwet’en.