This story presents the unfiltered voices of Haisla chiefs when they testified at the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review hearings on January 10, 2011, at Kitamaat Village, based on the official transcript. There have been minor edits for clarity.
My name is Marilyn Edith Furlan nee Paul. I was born in Bella Bella in 1948. I was raised in Kemano, Kitlope, Kitamaat Village, Butedale, and Port Simpson.
My father is Chief Gupsgolox, Dan Paul Senior of Kitlope. My mother, Mujive Wigadof Edith Paul of the Beaver Clan. My father is in the Eagle Clan.
My traditional name is Pulth Xa-Leeth , which means it is the abalone shells imbedded on the outside of the canoe. My sisters is Pulth Ha-Neeks , which is the abalone shells imbedded on the inside of the canoe.
My name came from my great-great grandmother mama’u Annie Putlh, of Hinaxula Kitlo. She passed away in 1966. We believe she was pretty close to 114 years old when she passed away in our Kitimat hospital here in Kitimat.
I once asked mama’u, “Do you know when your birth date is?” She said all she knows is what her mother told her, that she was born when the berries were starting to get right and it was probably around June or July.
My name was given to me by my grandmother in a feast hall. Emily Amos baptized me at that feast.
I am the member of the Eagle Clan under Chief Gupsgolox, Dan Paul Senior.
I want to go back to Kitlope where my forefathers are from. Kitlope River is a water that comes right from the glacier. It is very, very blue. The borderline when you see that water, a blue water, istamas and that’s where the water meets the borderline of the Hinaxula meet at the mouth of Gardner to Haisla waters, the colour changes.
If you ever get a chance please go to visit. Your experience is a peaceful cleansing spirits when you come out of there. You wash your face in that glacier blue water and it’s to be — and you are protected while you’re there. You enter without animosity.
My grandmother, mama’u, used to tell us stories around when she was mending an eulachon net or making an eulachon net, in Kitlope when a boat started coming in where sockeye that was dried in the sun and it was very, very red, as you can see it when you’re going in, each clan had an area for their own to dry their fish as you’re coming out — along the Kitlope — Kemano.
My grandmother, mama’u Annie Pulth, she never believed in taking fire — firewood — taking trees down for firewood. Every time after a high tide she would go — we’d walk along the beaches of Kemano and we’d pick up a driftwood, put it on top of the logs, wait for it to dry out, go back and pick those logs up to burn for firewood, and also for smoking.
She taught me how to identify ghlksam, ebaum , that’s carrots and buttercup roots, in the back of our home in Kemano. You dry them or you boil them fresh. She always used to tell me that “You learn from this. You watch and you learn.” She was always so afraid of a war breaking out. She said when the maniwa come in you’ll never starve.
She didn’t believe in wasting any kind of fish. We ate everything on that fish. Goat meat, the fat off the goat, she’d take it off, take it into the smoke house and dry it. I had to taste everything. There was nothing that I couldn’t say “No, thank you”.
The seal that was outside in Kemano, the ducks, if we wanted that, we needed that, they’d hunt right out on the front of our village. We only hunted what we could eat for that time.
As a little girl we would sit around while she was making eulachon net and annoosa and tell stories about the fishing that she used to do. She used to go down to — go as far as Seattle by canoe. It used to take them two weeks to get there in Butedale. And she’d always come back with beads — necklaces from the First Nations down there for me.
We harvested the cedar bark and she would make cedar baskets out of them. As a little girl I remember her giving me little baskets. Every year as I grew up she made another basket big enough for me.
Mama’u also took me on her dugout canoe that she made herself to go and harvest some clams, some cockles. My favourite was always mussels. She would take the (inaudible), the dried fish, smoked fish and put it in a cedar box for our winter food. We’d always have that with the oil, the eulachon grease.
Mama’u was a very tiny, tiny woman but very powerful. She was the mother of all mothers. She would tell stories about — especially about the maniwa (ph) that she was so afraid of. She would tell stories about them coming in to Kemano, turning around and going back out, and then always cautioned us whenever they arrived in Butedale — that was our summer home — to stay away from there because they’ll kidnap us. We were never allowed to go down to the float. We always had to stay in our area.
I was one of the luckiest ones that was brought up by the community. Butedale and Kemano was a very small community. Men went out fishing; the women stayed home. Everybody was our mother. All of us, everybody was our mother, but mama’u was the head. Like Clifford said, she was the head.
I remember when the first helicopter she ever saw in Kemano, she ran out with a broom trying to chase that helicopter away because she’d never seen one before.
My traditional foods are now from my dad, brother, brother-in-law that fish and hunt and they share with me. Have you heard previously about the traditional foods that we have and had? Some of them we haven’t tasted in a long time, especially, for me, living in town.
Included in it is the red cod, black cod, halibut, trout, eulachon, eulachon grease, clams, cockles, sea cucumbers, mussels, sea urchins, prawns, herring, herring eggs, crabs, hunting goat, bear, moose, seal meat, ducks, geese. Most of them are prepared the same way; smoked. Halibut is dried, air dried, canned, barbecued. Best is eating it fresh.
I myself, fish in the Kitimat River for small trout, salmon, steelhead. Follow the season.
In the Hamatichi-sa Kitamaat Village — Kemano Village, pardon me — I trap squirrels. My dad taught me how to trap squirrels, skin it and stretch it, clean it, rabbits, martin, weasels. I trapped with my dad. Then I would sell it to provide income for myself, enough to buy candy or a chocolate bar whenever we walked so many kilometres — in those days it was miles — up to Kemano where Alcan had built a water — where they got their water, where they get their B.C. Hydro water.
I remember skinning my first weasel, and there’s a part in there that you have to make sure you miss, and I didn’t. And my dad stood by and laughed and laughed because when you hit that spot, it smells, but I still had to clean it myself. I used to get 25 cents a squirrel if it was really nice, five cents if it wasn’t, so I made a lot of nickels.
Nuxalk is visual learning, by watching your grandparents or your parents prepare. The most fascinating part of preparing was eulachon grease, the preparation and how long it takes to prepare for eulachon grease.
My youngest son had an opportunity to go with Chief Gupsgo lox to help make the eulachon grease.
Mama’u taught us never to waste any kind of food. I don’t ever recall seeing garbage around in Kemano, in our little village, or up in Kitlope, because that’s what we were taught.
Mama’u took me up to Kitlope to go eulachon grease making up there, and we’d go up in a — in those days they were called the little putt-putt boats. When you started it, you had to turn this wheel. Up there is a story about the man who turned to stone. And I recall her always putting a towel or a blanket over my head as we were going by the man who turned to stone.
Then one day I asked her, “Why do you do that to me?” I’m a nosy kid. I’ve been nosy since I was small and still am today. She said, “Because I didn’t want you to have nightmares because when you’re going by that man who turned to stone, it looks like he’s watching you as you’re going by.”
When you get up to where we used to camp, our house was made out of logs that was halfway and the rest was a canvas. The floors were bare. I recall mama’u when she got up in the morning and she made puyas, which was Indian tea and she always fried bread, and she’d have it on the table when we’d get up.
The syrup in those days used to come in cans, and when you dipped your bread into the — that fried bread into that, it used to stretch like molasses and you used to have to turn your bread around to cut the syrup off. The one thing I liked about the bare floors is you never had to sweep. Mama’u harvested the stinging nettles to make twine for an eulachon net and scoop nets.
As a little girl, I had very, very bad eczema on my hands and mama’u would take me at the back of the house to take shavings off of alder, soak a piece of cloth and wrap it around my hands to take the infection away.
She taught me how to harvest devil’s club to make medicine tea. Chief Gupsgolox, he still goes out to get hewood down our channel and mom prepares it for me.
Our traditional foods, the seaweed and the herring eggs and abalone are traded with a Gitga’at families, the Kitasoo and the Bella Bella family. We traded mostly with eulachon grease.
Mama’u and I harvested salmon berries, blueberries, thimble berries, wild cranberries, huckleberries, aseena — and I don’t know what it’s called in English — facetum — I think that’s called parsnip. We used to steal sugar from mom’s cupboard and dip it in there to eat. Elderberry, wild crab apples, apples and the stingy nettles.
Stinging nettles, that’s a job I didn’t like but mama’u gave me, because it stung if you didn’t pick it right.
My sister Lorna and I — I have six sisters and one brother — spoke Haisla quite fluently. When it was time to go to school, to the English-speaking school, we had to learn to speak English because that’s the only thing the teacher taught us in, but mama’u always spoke to me in Haisla.
I am the elder’s coordinator. I believe everything happens for a reason, why I ended up there at my stage in life. The Haisla language, I understand it, but I’m just learning how again to speak it. I so believe that everything happens for a reason and every reason is for a good reason. Being an elder’s coordinator and being with the elders and we’re sitting around the table and they speak Haisla, I’m starting to pick it up.
I’m also a bus driver for the three and four-year olds. It is a job that I’m so thankful for in this stage of my life and my age right now. The children, they light up your life. Early in the morning, my first pick-up is at eight o’clock and it’s still dark out. The last ones I bring home is at 4:00. In between that time I’m with the elders.
And then one day I was laying in bed and I thanked the creator for where I am today because it’s the children that light up my life and it’s my elders that put me into a peaceful sleep every night.
My grandparents, Walter and Violet Wilson, taught me a lot too. They taught me how to help whomever comes to you.
My uncle Taylor, when we were eight, nine years old, papa’u Walter used to tell us to go and help Uncle John, old John Hall, cutting wood with the old blades, with the hacksaw, big long thing, and we’d go and help them pack their wood up. Always help one another. Don’t have to be asked. Get up and help. “Wigella clab” — we help one another. I have instilled that in my children, help one another, my grandchildren.
When I talk about Kitlope and my dad, the Chief Gupsgolox, mama’u, Clifford, Kenny Hall, I feel so, so blessed that I — that they’re still here with me. I talk to Kenny Hall a lot about Kitlope, reminisce, nusa. Up there in Kitlope is where we come from, right in there. Gosh, it’s been a long time since I’ve been there.
The Gupsgolox pole was taken from Mis’kusa, which belongs to my dad, Chief Gupsgolox. It sat in Misk’usa. In 2006 we went to Sweden to pick up that pole. It is now sitting below my dad’s house waiting to go back home in March when eulachon season is on. Hopefully there will be eulachons this year were it lay back to rest.
When we come back from Butedale — that was our summer home — my dad was a fisherman, and I’d come up here and live with my grandparents, as you’re kind of coming up the channel there, you could see the yellow of buttercups, the blue of the forget-me-nots as you were coming in. You don’t see that any more.
A river, Minette Bay, the grass was brown. When Eurocan left, as a bus driver, I started noticing that the green grass, the eel grass was coming back. I started noticing the seals coming in, the fish coming in. Just to witness the seal when they’d get a fish in its mouth and it would come up from the water and shake its head and just play around with that fish and throw it around.
The geese, the ducks that are coming back. The eel grass starting to turn green, a beautiful green, some of our birds, I notice, are starting to come back, pigeons. We used to see that all the time and I just noticed some pigeons the other day.
It was last year, I got a call from my boss, said, “Marilyn, hurry up and get those kids over here, you’ve got to see this”. I said, “I can’t”. I said, “It’s 50 kilometres an hour on this road, I’ll get caught for sure”.
When the porpoises come in and the witnesses said it sounded like a big, big noise coming into our channel. Turned around close to Alcan, went back out. The killer whales come in. The flowers are now starting to come back.
I so believe that everything happens for a reason. So I can teach my grandchildren, be observant, respect our lands. Even taking your garbage out of the bush is pollution, take your garbage out with you. Don’t throw a piece of paper on the floor, don’t throw a piece of paper on the road because that’s pollution. The family crest on my blanket is the moon and the star. What I have on my blanket tells the story of the man who turned stone, T’ismista, that’s up in Kitlope. I have on there the killer whale fin, it’s from my grandmother’s side; I have an eagle on there from my dad’s side; I have a beaver on there from my mom’s side.
I would like to add a frog on mine. I noticed on dad’s regalia that he has a frog. I asked him, “Why do you have a frog on there?” The Chief — the Gupsgolox pole, when it was taken from Misk’usa, the base was a frog. When they cut it off, they left the frog behind. That’s what’s missing on my blanket, is a frog, because I never knew there was a frog on the bottom.
I have a daughter and two sons, four grandchildren. My daughter, Indian name is Stauogh, from her great-grandmother with Boone, the late Violet Wilson. Her children, 11 and 13, also have an Indian name, which was from their baba’u, Dan Paul, Senior Chief Gupsgolox. My daughters — my granddaughter, Sienna, got her name from Nanny Lorna Bolton mugee with Boone. My other granddaughter is Msaxw, which means Rainbow.
They get their traditional food from moojith (ph) with Boone, Lorna Bolton. Lorna prepares and gives them the smoked fish, smoked eulachons and they love their dried halibut and the seaweed. Her husband Jay is non-First Nations, he also loves this food.
If there’s ever an oil spill they will have nothing. They’ll have nothing to put on their dinner plate.
The last time my two children — my two oldest children harvested any eulachons in our river right by Kitimat River bridge was in 1972. We scooped it up with fish nets and put it in an ice cream pail and brought it home and cooked it fresh. That was the very last time we ever went into the Kitimat River for eulachons.
I have seen a lot of our resources depleted, some of them are coming back. I am very worried about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, how the spill would impact our territory. I don’t want to accept such a risk to our territory, to our lands and to our resources, neither would my mama’u, my baba’u, Walter Wilson, and all my other mama’u’s. Johnny Bolton who sits up there is my great-great grandfather. I feel them here, all of them, in here.
My youngest son is not married yet so I have to think of his children, my future grandchildren. It is going to be their uncles that will teach them this, about our resources and how important it is, when I’m gone, when my parents are gone.
I don’t want the resources which we use to teach our children of our culture to be destroyed. I honour mama’u, baba’u, our ancestors that are gone that are counting on us to keep our lands and resources free from any oil spill.