No oil pipeline here: Enbridge Northern Gateway joint review panel in Burns Lake finds more opposition
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel moved south to Burns Lake on Tuesday and began with drumming and songs by the Wet’suwet’en and Lake Babine Nations. Despite a request by the panel that they not sing, the Wet’suwet’en repeated the song written for the occasion of the Smithers hearing:
Our territory is our livelihood.
We live off our land.
We survive on the wildlife of our land.
Law language land.
Connection of the land and the animals.
Enbridge, don’t step on our land.
Our territory is our livelihood.
Enbridge, do not step on our land.
Shiela Leggett, chair of the JRP, clarified that the JRP was there to receive oral traditional knowledge, and not to hear the intervener’s position on the pipeline.
“The arguments and opinions will be the last step before the JRP makes its decision,” she said. “I would like to address that word respect, the importance of being able to listen to each other. We must give respect to everyone in this room, all the parties. I ask that all parties be fully respected.”
The Wet'suwet'en and Lake Babine interveners spoke of respect as well, but in a broader sense:
Chief Jeff Brown: “First Nations teach respect for people, land, animals, water, and air. To have a successful hunt we have to give to mother earth a gift and ask for a successful hunt....I don’t see how the pipeline is going to ever give back to mother earth the way we do it. Nothing Enbridge or the government can do to give us back our territory once it is contaminated.”
When Chief Brown said “No to the Enbridge pipeline,” Leggett cut him off with a reminder that the panel can only receive oral evidence.
Still, Brown concluded: “We respect the land, so no industry such as a pipeline can ever set foot on our territory."
Chief Henry Alfred addded, “There’ a legend to show Wet’suwet’en respect for the land and its creatures. Two children were playing outside when a spider wandered by. The kids laughed at the spider and kicked it aside.
One of the kids asked, “What’s the good of this little creature? Why has the creator put such a little creature on this earth that is not good for anything?”
As he spoke a swarm of ants came down the path killing everything. The boys ran down the path until they couldn’t run anymore and so they resigned themselves to being killed. They heard a spider calling from a big knothole in an old tree.
The boys jumped in the knothole and the spider wove a web over the hole. When the ants arrived they looked around and the spider said, “I don’t think the boys would be in the hole because it has a spider web over it.”
"The moral is that even little creatures like ants, spiders and microorganisms have a purpose here on earth and sometimes they can even save your life. Which brings us to the right-of-ways of some projects. The right-of-ways are usually maintained by insecticides because it is cheaper than hiring people. But there are small things there that need respect, like mycelium. That is not the Wet’suwet’en way. How we maintain our lands is part of our title and rights.”
A second story from Chief Henry Alfred: “When the first explorer appeared on the banks of the river at Moricetown, he had a big beard and pale skin. He was sitting on the banks watching the Wet’suwet’en fish. The young warriors noticed him and went to the chief. There was no protocol for crossing Wet’suwet’en territory, there was only one law: to kill trespassers. So warriors proceeded up the bank to honor chief’s request. But the chief changed his mind. He said, “On second thought, bring him down here.” They befriended him, shared food with him and sent him on his way. That is how close this person came to losing his life for trespassing. We still hold trespass as an offence to the Wet’suwet’en people. “
Chief John Risdale: “Granddad told us to respect all living things. That’s how they brought us up. We hunt animals for food and also for the potlatch to let people know where this bounty came from. It is also spoken of in the potlatch. In the old days they were strict about their territories. My grandfather caught a person trespassing. The first time he gave him a feather. The next season the person was trapping again on his territory and my grandfather gave him a second feather. He told the person, “ I don’t want to hurt you.” Third season, the person was still on the trap line. So my grandfather took a rope out of his pack. The person didn’t know he was coming. Wrapped it around his neck killed him and tossed him into the river. They were strict about their territory. The pipeline will also disturb animals.
When animals are disturbed it takes them a long time to return to certain territories. For this reason we say no to Enbridge. Don’t spoil our territory. Industry only wants to make millions of dollars on our territory. They reject our value of land and territory. I’d like to say this: if this pipeline goes through the feast succession of names will be ruined. The succession of lands that are handed down to chiefs will also be ruined.”
David Dewit, natural resources manager: “We have been conducting business for thousands of years. This is where our laws and protocols come from. Leaders hold their titles for life. Discussions take a long time. Respect and trust are necessary. Wet’suwet’en do not just use the land. We do so in accordance with our laws and traditions, a governance that has been operating for thousands of years. Our laws are based on respect for all living beings. Yintakh is a philosophy of all natural elements including humans, not just land.”