Why Gitxsan built a camp to blockade an LNG pipeline in BC's north
In their own words from "Camp Madii Lii"
In late August, an Aboriginal protest group with the Gitxsan tribe in northern B.C. constructed a permanent camp in their territory to oppose LNG pipelines that they say do not have their hereditary chiefs' approval. They call it "Camp Madii Lii" and their members block all "LNG traffic and other unauthorized industrial activity." TransCanada is proposing the $5-billion Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline, to transport fracked gas from the northeast to B.C.'s coast.
What follows is an op/ed from the leaders of this camp.
"Let’s be clear – the BC Government has created and perpetuated a system that pits industry against First Nations. It divides communities and negatively impacts the investment climate in BC. It is this system the House of Luutkudziiwus, with the support of many other Gitxsan House groups, other First Nations and non-First Nation, are standing against. We welcome those who would use our territory for non-industrial activities such as fishing, hunting, food/medicine gathering, or outdoor recreation. We are not opposed to logging and would like to enter into access agreements that respect our House. We will never let LNG pipelines or related activities onto our Territory, it is simply too destructive and short-sighted."
Gitxsan members at "Camp Madii Lii" in northern B.C. -- Photos by Pansy Wright-Simms
"The state of our Gitxsan nation has become very disheartening as people are desperately trying to protect what traditional territory we have left. We seek to uphold the Gitxsan law of Gwalx Ye’insxwtis. This is a deep and broad principle with reference to the land and culture on traditional territory, it is described as the belief and ethic of “we received a full basket and it’s our duty to pass a full basket on.” Our ancestors have left us with a legacy that is being tainted by the ways of the western world system; power and financial wealth through industrialization of traditional lands. Our wealth is directly linked to the health of land and our people are being stifled into situations where their voices are not being heard or validated."
"The voices of our hereditary Chiefs, matriarchs (mothers & grandmothers) are being told that they are not able to share what is weighing heavy on their hearts because they haven’t been given an opportunity or a platform to do so. Our Wilp (House) consists of three, high-ranking Hereditary Chiefs: Luutkudziiwus-Charlie Wright, Xsimjiitsiin-Lester Moore, & Noohla-Norman Moore. All of which have been oppressed under systems like the Gitxsan Treaty Society; that have been created to “represent the Gitxsan” and is the only entity that the Government officials consult with meaningfully, the rest of us get lip service."
"This is the same entity (GTS) that signed with Enbridge, the same entity that has spent over $20 million of tax payer dollars trying to come to a treaty agreement with the BC Government but almost 20 years later are no closer than when they started, the same entity whose frivolous spending habits were only revealed through an audit demanded by the Gitxsan people who blockaded their office until the audit was issued. This is who the BC Government chooses to consult with, this is who gets the funding for the Gitxsan Nation despite the fact that many Gitxsan are litigating against the GTS. The GTS operates by spending tax-payer dollars and negotiating agreements with industry that benefit a few and leave the much of the nation in poverty."
"This is very disheartening as there have been some major discussions with Government and LNG that affect our territory- Maddii ‘Lii in the Suskwa Valley. The ramifications of the decisions could be catastrophic for our community, our Wilp and for our wild salmon. We are dependent on these things to sustain us; our wildlife, salmon, air, water, plants, medicines, berries, etc. Our Hereditary Chiefs Luutkudziiwus-Charlie Wright, Xsimjiitsiin-Lester Moore, & Noohla-Norman Moore and their House members have asserted the right to protect and manage their territory in a non-destructive, peaceful manner."
"Neither the BC Government nor the LNG industry has ever entered into any agreement, consultation, or had meaningful discussion with our Wilp (house) despite our repeated attempts from our House Chiefs to seek solutions. Land use planning for us is going to be one that causes NO harm, it shouldn’t have the kinds of impacts that won’t allow us to sustain ourselves or our future generations. If our territory is damaged, we do not get another, we can’t move to find a better location. This is all we have."
"We may not have control of the world; but as a nation, community and as a House group with aboriginal rights and title, we can stand together to protect the natural resources and all that connects us. We are the caretakers of the Territory. It is not only our right to protect and gather our resources without damaging or destroying any lifecycle, it is our responsibility. We would like our children and generations to come to walk through our territories with its abundant natural resources for generations to come."
Hamiiya, (with gratitude)
Luu Bahlum Giitsa