Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Henry Amos

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.

Henry Amos
Henry Amos

Gupsalupus is my Chief name, Chief of the Eagle Clan, a name that was transferred to me from my grand-father Jeff Legay (ph) and those that remember him, was a very prominent speaker, a very knowledgeable man in our language and our culture, a man who would share his wisdom on all walks of life, including stories, songs, whatever came up, he would share with anyone who would listen.

That’s what I remember of this name that I carry for over approximately forty years, a name that I’ve treasured for the same length of time because I know who it came from.

Henry Amos Senior is my adopted name, English name. And I want to share with you a little bit about what I was taught by my parents. I want you to know who I am, who’s speaking to you.

I was taught well by my parents on how to conduct myself and hopefully I didn’t disappoint them, because I — that person I treasure use the words honesty, accountability, responsibility. And probably the strongest word that I think personally is the word “respect”. Again, that’s how I try to conduct myself to my people when I address them. Those words that I was taught, I was told you’ll never go wrong, to be open and transparent. I’ll get back to that.

Those words that I suggest to you, the Panel, to reflect on when you make a decision down the road, I know it’s a long way but I suggest to you to reference those words when you make a decision on this project that I’ve just mentioned and that’s all I can ask of you, what my parents said, you’ll never go wrong.

All day we heard my friends here make mention of the resources that we use to survive, and I’m no exception. I won’t go into details but I want it on record that Henry Amos Senior still does depend on the resources that is provided to me by Mother Nature, our land, our water.

But I want to share with you an experience that I had as a youngster gathering — one trip that I went with my parents and his parents and some of my siblings. The first deer that I ever sought for our food, for our use, as a youngster, I’ll never forget, when my father and myself, he lead — he lead me to where they were. And when I did manage to shoot one of them, it went down and I jumped for joy, that’s how happy I was — memories that I have. But what I didn’t know is that he didn’t stay down.

He took off into the bush. So my dad had to follow him. He didn’t go far. And that trip alone we gathered that deer, we had berries, crabs and salmon in that one trip. Regulations weren’t in place yet. Regulations for how much people you can carry, the hunting licenses, those weren’t in place yet. That’s one trip that I’ll never forget, a trip with my parents to gather food for our survival.

Those are the words that my parents taught me and I want it on record that I still depend on those resources.

I’d just like to say a few words on your portion of the hearing relating to your position as a Joint Review Panel.

The information that I got online, a concern of mine — I have nothing against the Panel but I’m concerned. I’m concerned about the decision making of this project; that Ms. Leggett and Mr. Bateman both work for the National Energy Board, one as a Vice-Chair and the other one as a Chair of the Regulatory Policy Committee, I believe — correct me if I’m wrong — and Mr. Matthews, First Nation from the Eastern Province of Ontario.

When I think about it — and this is my own personal opinion — that I am — we are, the Haisla are already at a disadvantage. We have no representation from the Province of British Columbia.

I realize your tasks. I also know that you’re an independent body, which is good in a way, but what bothers me the most is that you’re appointed, I think from your information it was from the Minister of Environment and the National Energy Board. You’re appointed by the Federal Government and it’s the same government that is telling the world that this project should go ahead. That is my biggest concern right now, is that we are in a disadvantage.

At this point Sheila Leggett, chair of the panel interrupted to say, Chief Amos, we’re here today to listen to your oral evidence that wouldn’t be able to be put in writing, and the example we’ve been using in the Hearing Order and the information we’ve been publishing is that it would be traditional knowledge. So I’m hoping that your comments will be along those lines because that
is what we’re here to listen to today.

The project that we’re concerned about, the proposed, which is referenced — this hearing is referenced as mother of all hearings. I’ve heard that comment. All three phases of this project is right in the middle of Haisla territory. You have the pipeline — proposed pipeline. You have the Kitimat Marine Terminal, and you have the tanker — tanker traffic.

I find that the valley, Wadine, Mount Elizabeth, Kitimat Valley — I seen the beauty of the areas and all forms of life. That bothers me. The migratory birds that are there; you see swan; you see geese, ducks, beaver. You heard my — this table talk about resources for their food, but there’s another part of it that – the beauty of the creatures out there the photographers take.
I can still picture in my mind the amount of damage that was done in Mexico. Exxon Valdez. I don’t want that to happen in my territory.

I realize other communities are going to be doing the same process, the pipeline that will be criss-crossing the rivers. To me, Kitimat River is probably another one of my concerns.
I hear some First Nations agree with the project, but some of them they won’t be impacted. None of the pipelines will reach their territory. I understand that. What I don’t understand is individuals and organizations that agree with this project that could hugely impact, and I’m referring to Kitimat River.

If a spill occurs on top of the intake for City of Kitimat water system, what’s going to happen? And these people — organizations — don’t take that into consideration. And once it gets down to the mouth of the Kitimat River, there’s nowhere else for it to go but through the channel. And I know how fast, how swift the tides can go in and out.

The response time, we’re lucky today that the weather — I don’t think you’ll find a milder weather in January, but I’ve seen winter elements. I’ve seen heavy snowfall. I’ll give you a good example, one I can think of, probably in the early ‘70’s. I worked from eleven thirty to seven thirty. I left at probably ten thirty and I was out of there by seven thirty.

The snow that had packed in those eight hours, eight and a half hours, when I parked my car at the parking lot, you didn’t know whose car was there. There was so much snow it covered the whole parking lot. All you seen was a form of vehicles.

The winter elements in our territory is a big concern. Freezing rain, there’s times you won’t be able to move, and that’s on regular highways. If a spill occurs along the pipeline, how do they expect to reach if you can’t even drive on a regular highway because of winter conditions. How do they expect to get to that point where there’s a spill? I can’t understand that.

We always hear about: “Aw, we’ll clean it up.”

The pipeline that I’m referring to, the proposed twin pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, what you mentioned to is 1170 kilometres in length, I worked probably 40 years in the industry, 32 as a welder. I see a lot of incidences. I see a lot of accidents. I’ve repaired a lot of components, machinery, equipment and some of them, incidents, accidents, were due to human error but I do know how this pipeline that’s supposed to be coming through, the twin pipeline, in a rugged terrain with B.C. — this isn’t Alberta, this isn’t the Prairies where you can see for miles.

I just heard that, along the route, there’s going to be two mountains that has to be drilled because the terrain is so rugged.

You know, the Kitimat Marine Terminal, from what I understand, there’ll be — excuse me — the Kitimat Marine Terminal, I believe, there’s going to be 14 storage tanks. How big in volume? I don’t know. Three were supposed to be for condensing and 11 for — for oil and two tanker berths. It’s probably where they’re going to load them.

And like everything else, Kitimat Marine Terminal is a concern of mine. As I’ve stated, I’ve seen accidents. I’ve seen incidences. If I knew the volume of one of them …

I just can’t imagine the devastation that will happen in and around my community, the waterways, the tanker route. Approximately 200 supertankers, not just regular ships like what we have out here; twice as big as the ships that are coming in and out currently.

They all talk about safety. You could be safe as you can. A good example is the Queen of the North that just ran aground just down the channel and fortunate to have the community of Gitga’at there to help them. Human error. And that’s a small-scale ship compared to the supertankers that are proposed to come in and out of Douglas Channel. Big concern.
I’ve been part of our elected council, my third term now, and what I’ve seen is a big improvement on how we want to protect our environment. We’re not dead set against employment. I’ve heard individuals: “Oh, we’ll get jobs.” My community has to fight tooth and nail to get any employment.

I just heard there’ll be 400 jobs along the pipeline route, another 1,000 jobs across Canada but I think the bottom line is, once this project — depending on which way it goes — will have 50 permanent jobs and, from our experience, we’re lucky to get jobs for our people.
But I want to make it perfectly clear those jobs, whatever comes with the project, no matter how much money that is put in front of me, I will never — I will always go against a project that I know can wipe out our whole resource.

As I said, we’d love to have industries come in providing they don’t affect our environment.
I stated earlier about how council has improved, Kitamaat Village Haisla Nation Council is improving and that’s including our Aboriginal Rights and Title case law. Hiring the right lawyers, the right consultants is what I see is the strongpoint for elected council and I think and I know the bottom line for us is to protect what our people want. I’d rather not have this project in our territory. Thank you.