Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Clifford Smith

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.

Clifford Smith
Clifford Smith

Thank you. Before I speak, I make reference to my brothers and sisters seated behind me. I know in your spirit that you stand beside me, speaking in opposition of the proposed pipeline. I thank you for your strength. My back is not turned toward you deliberately. I know you stand with me.

I acknowledge the Heiltsuk Nation and the Kitasoo/Xaixais for their strength. I would miss their arrival yesterday into our territory and I remember my grandmother speaking: when we have visitors, the power of their arrival …

I interpret that for those that don’t understand our language: “We heard their voices, their drum voices and their voices. I take that upon myself has given me strength.

Thank you to the Heiltsuk Nation….

And I know that that strength also comes with the other neighbouring nations of our territory. Thank you for that strength and I will indeed attend your hearings to return that strength that you so generously gave me; I return it to you by attending your hearings.

Thank you for standing beside me. Thank you.

I also make reference to our youth who brought our chief to see in the power of their voice and the strength of their drums. Let’s take that strength and stand together and say “No” to Enbridge.

My given name is Gaioustis which once belonged to my late Uncle Charlie Wilson. I received that name, Gaioustis, on my grandmother’s tombstone face and I have honoured that name since I received it.

I need to mention my grandmother, Annie Paw who is the head of our family and the family owns and presently owns an eulachon camp up in Kemano, Gardner Canal. I need to mention that, the importance of the eulachon to us as the Haisla. My grandmother has since passed on and the head of our camp became my late father Edmund Smith and my mum.

It’s just a little over a year ago, my mother passed away and, at that time, my brother Crosbie was the head of our camp. It’s this past September we buried our eldest of family, Crosbie, in September.

I along with my brother, Glen, have now become the head of the camp. I need to make mention of that camp. The importance of our resources that our Mother Earth has so generously given and I make mention of the neig

hbouring nations, how we link together as family; not only in a Nation’s sense but by blood.
I have family in River’s Inlet. I have family in Heiltsuk. I have family in Kitasoo/Xaixais; I have family in (inaudible). I have family in Gitga’at, I have family in Metlakatla, the upper reaches of the Coast, Port Simpson, Kinkola, Grainwall, Canyon City Ians, Hazelton Kitfunga, all the neighbouring nations.

I need to mention those nations because we are linked together — the resources from our sea, our land and sea — through the barter system. I make reference to them as my brothers and sisters for they are indeed brothers and sisters. We enjoy the resources from our sea. Until today, we enjoyed the resources of the sea.

If there’s any oil spill, whether it be from the pipeline or the ship that will transport the crude oil, if there’s any form of spill, all that we enjoy from land and sea will be destroyed.

Let us put our strength together and stand as one and say “No” to Enbridge.

The salmon from our oceans is vitally important to our diet. I’ve been travelling our waters for six and a half decades from the time I was able to travel. Our source of travel was the canoe.

I make reference to my life because it is a statement that needs to be mentioned for that’s when our teachings begin. As a small child, the teachings begin. The knowledge that I have today has been compiled all those years, six and a half decades.

I still travel these waters. I’m a retired commercial fisherman; I still travel these waters. I very much enjoy harvesting and providing for my family, my immediate family, my extended family, my friends. They all benefit from the harvest that I do.

The clams, the cockles, the mussels, the crab, the urchins and cucumber, halibut, cod, all I enjoy, that — all that I enjoy will be wiped away if there ever is an oil spill. It’s a scary fact if the pipeline is to be built. All that I and my people enjoy will be gone. Let us stand together and say no to Enbridge.

I still hunt today and most the deer, the beaver, the fowl — the water fowl — all this I enjoy on our doorstep.

I make reference to what I — a statement that I heard the other day, that we as Haisla people stand in front of a double-barrelled shotgun, indeed we are standing in front of a double-barrelled shotgun. The pipeline — the proposed pipeline will come up through our back door and its ships will come in and transport the crude oil; we are indeed facing a double-barrelled shotgun. The impact — if there’s an impact of any spoil we’ll be in disaster.

The Exxon Valdez, which took place years ago, the damage is still visible today. Last year we witnessed through the news media Gulf of Mexico, they are still suffering today.

I have three children, three grandchildren and one more grandchildren on the way; it is them that will suffer without the resources that we so much enjoy today if there ever is an oil spill. Therefore, I say no to the reality of Enbridge, no, please no.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak. I thank you for listening.


Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Ken Hall

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.


Ken Hall

Thank you. My name is Ken Hall. I’m from Kemano, the Kitlope area. My father was there and my mother was from Kitamaat. And I was born in Kitamaat and raised partially in Kitamaat and Butedale where my father worked.

As I grew up in Butedale and coming in here in between seasons, as I
grew up with my brothers and sisters, I was taught many of the things that we need to do in order to be a good member of the Haisla Nation. And I was told never to look down on other people that are walking around, even if you’re a chief or not, and be nice to one another.

This has always been expressed to us as I was growing up. I was adopted by my late father as a young man into the Eagle Tribe. I grew up in this tribe and he adopted me, and that was unexpected from my side of the view, and I was wondering why that happened. But he never expressed anything to the people as to why he had done that until later on.

In our system, as you heard my Chief speak about it, that we were taught and had to be well-knowledged by our traditional system and be respectful and show good leadership. So with that, my name is Tequicah , a Chief for the Eagle Tribe in the Kitlope, Kemano area. And this name that I carry is the steward of the Saint Mathews Bay which is a big bass area up in Gardner Canal towards Kitlope.

And this has always been the system that each chief has a place where they can hunt or fish or trap. Not only my family can do that, but anybody can go in there in this community. And in doing so, they acknowledge us.

But nevertheless, I learned a lot through my relatives, cousins, uncles, grandpa, all the traditional things that they spoke of. And how to be able to survive in our territory was the main thing that they taught us, how to be a provider, how to have respect for animals and things like that.

We don’t just shoot them for spite. We take them for our needs of our family. In doing so, we acknowledge each animal as we kill it for what we learned is that they have a great spirit too. And we tell them and we say, “Nollo, nollo” to them. That’s a way of praising them and apologizing to them for what we’ve done to them. “We didn’t do any harm to you. We’ve done this because our families are in need.”

And the main thing that was taught to me was to be conservative in every way. As you’ve heard the others speak before me that you can’t take too much of what you gather, whether you’re hunting, fishing or picking berries; always get enough that you can preserve or conserve it or leave the rest for others that are in need.

My father’s name was Simon Hall. He was from Kemano, Kitlope area and my mother’s name was Amelia Duncan, then Hall, was born in Kitamaat Village. My father was a Chief of the Eagle Clan also and he taught me many things about hunting and shooting and fishing in my time as I was growing up.

And without anything said to me or warning of what’s going to happen, he adopted me to the Eagle Clan, but later on told me, as he went into another phase — he installed what is called in line of a chief, Henaaksiala. He gave it to me and he told the people then that I was, in his view, good enough to be one that can represent or talk to my family, brothers and sisters in my own family.

I was called one time as I worked for the council. I operated a passenger boat. I came in from Kitlope and while we were preparing camp, I was reading a story that we had. I got back from Kitlope about 10:30 in the morning. I got into the house and my wife told me “There’s a lady that wants to talk to talk to you from high school.”

So she showed me that number and I phoned her right away, and she asked me “Can you come over and make another presentation to the high school teachers? There’s about 40 here that’s anxious to hear you speak the stories of your life and legends and what have you been taught. They’d like to learn that.”

The main thing about that was respect. The very first thing that was taught to me was respect. My father and grandfather often told me, “If you don’t have any respect for yourself, nobody will respect you.”

Anyway, when I arrived in the high school, there was 40 kids — high school kids — in the room waiting for me and they welcomed me. And I told Sharon, the people who was organizing everything, that I wasn’t prepared for anything such as this today. So what I’m going to do, it might prompt me up with something that I know. I’ll have a question period there for a few minutes.

Right away, four hands went up. And I started going one at a time to them, asking them what they wanted to say. And the fourth one was a young girl. I asked her what she wanted to say, if she had any concern, and she said, “What I want to know is how long was Alcan here before you people moved in?”

I sort of chuckled and I told her we’ve been here for thousands of years before Alcan ever seen this place. And she couldn’t believe it. She figured that Alcan let us in here.

But we’ve got stories from way, way back as the area being burned, what you see up there in the valley, as you heard my chief speak, that the trees where small from way back.

But anyway, I spoke of many things of my past experience to them. And I grew up in a place called Butedale. It’s about 70 miles from here. There’s a cannery, reduction plant and a cold storage, where my father was employed as a captain on a boat, his boat.

He had his own sailboat, and I went on it with him as a young boy, just riding around with him and watching the people. He had seven people who was on with him, helping him retrieve the net when he sets it, working all day. Their day starts at 4 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes they go to bed at 12:00 at night. This is what I learned from my father.
He often told us many things about when you are hunting, fishing, or whatever you’re doing, you need to be really on the line of moving right now, not later. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything.

But anyway, after saying that I fished salmon with my father, and as a young man, I grew up with him on a fishing boat. For 18 years I was a crew member with him, both halibut, herring and salmon. And it’s a lot of work, but I enjoyed learning all of the — but when coming home, when we come home in between fishing season, we go to the river, either Kitimat River, Kemano or Kitasoo to fish eulachons.

These are the things that they taught me, how to gather all the food that we need to serve to my family for all year, to preserve it. My wife knows how to preserve just about anything that we get. Now the freezer has come; we freeze a lot of them.

When we fished eulachons, it was always “Be careful. Don’t be careless. Don’t dump anything in the water. You’ve got to make sure this river is pure at all times, never contaminated with garbage or anything. Always make sure that the eulachons will come back for the next generation to come, salmon, what have you, water hog.”

And they used to go gather the roots and everything along the flats, my mother, my grandmother. That was a real staple for everybody, all of the things that we gathered. It was so nice to see it on the table when it was fresh, when we’d first kill it and they’d praise us and thank — are very thankful to us.

When I came home from fishing, I was approached if I could run for a council member by four guys in the village. When I did get in, which I failed the first time — I did get in and I stayed in there for over 20 years and I was the Chief Councillor from 1999 to 2001 for Kitamaat Village. And that’s a lot of work. Most of the time is spent on trying to keep our territory as clean as possible, because we had everything coming from all directions, wanting to use it.

I used to hunt and fish around Kitlope and Kemano area, as well as Douglas Channel area, and getting to know some other people along the line from different villages and we worked together on it at all times.

I still fish for our own use right now, even though I’m retired. Just like Rod said, we need to go out and teach our younger people, which I do. I’m proud to say that my nephews and my granddaughter are there to help us when we do bring some things in. Some of it they have learned from their grandmother, all of the things that were handed down to us from our forefathers.

When possible, I fish for eulachons, but I haven’t done that for the last several years due to the fact that they don’t repair in our rivers anymore. And it’s sad to know a source gone from your table, but it’s happy to know that other First Nations are there to care for you, to work together to give us eulachons when they get their eulachons.

My wife has been buying eulachon grease from other places. And I don’t know what we’d do without it. We certainly can’t use crude oil anyway.

I’m totally dependent on seafood too. In my days of growing up, we had everything from clams, cockles, crabs, shrimps and mussels, as well as halibut, red cod and different types of cods that we’d catch out there, which is slowly diminishing again. As a matter of fact, it is — it will be gone in time if we don’t stop it.
This is where our frustration comes in, with supposedly our government looking after us, promising to look after us, but which never did happen.

I heard some stories from when I was young, and I was taught to follow our Nuyem, which is the law of the Haisla Nation as well as all the First Nations that are listening today. They gather this and they keep it and pass it on to one another, one of the younger ones and all that, the next-door Nations that comes from. They make sure they learn it.

They don’t just tell it once; they keep repeating it after another. And that’s what happened to me to make sure that I keep away from danger, causing any harm to anybody, not injuring anybody, in fact, learning how to get along together.

When I became a Chief, my father lectured me. “Now that you carry a big name, from Hamatichi-sa, I don’t know if the Haisla will recognize it, and I want to mention it to late Tommy Robinson in a meeting what my dad told me and right away he rejected that idea that — he said you guys are strong, we strongly recognize you as a chief of the Kitasoo people.
Kitasoo people, as a matter of fact, amalgamated with the Haisla back in — I think it was 1948 when they signed the agreement after years of — a few years of negotiations. Kitasoo was a big place at one time but due to influenza and — that was smallpox I think, done away with a lot of them, right down to about 68 by the time they were accepted there.

But we are the survivors, same thing with the Haisla’s; there’s a lot of them that went on that due to that sickness that was brought over. I don’t know where it came from but people were falling all over the place as they were talking. When a sickness got into them they just drop, that’s how fast they were dying.

One thing that I appreciate though is that we get medications for that now. They say that same sickness is the one that killed our people a long time ago, what
we’re putting up with today.

My nephews, who I work together and taught as a young man are the ones that are responsible for bringing us food now in my house, as I’m 74 now but I enjoy going out there yet. When the time is right I go out with them. And a lot of them in this community, young people are doing the same thing for their parents — being taught by their parents and grandparents how to fish, hunt and whatever their requirements are.

I heard many stories from a lady that died at a very old age, from Kemano, regarding how our people work together in the area. And I thought of — I talked to the person that came amongst us and became a new medium, he kept telling my people before my time — before our time that the animals and the fish and what have you, the birds looked like human beings when I talk to them.
She was the one that knew what happened with the eulachon in that river a long time ago. And she was the one that told the people to look for that eulachon that
was lost and they belonged to the leaders of the eulachon, the chief of the eulachons.

When they found it they made her told that the eulachon came up the river and they — next day that thing was just loaded with eulachons. This is why we make sure we learn and keep what they taught us, how to treat ourselves or treat the animals that we get; never say anything bad about the animals when you do shoot them, otherwise they’ll get you back. That’s what we were told.

Even the fish too. When we get an animal, when we get up to it we say “Nola, nola, nola”( ph). That’s thanking the spirit — his spirit for allowing us to take the animal to feed our family. We tell him we don’t — we’re not doing this for spite, we’re seriously taking it to feed our family so they can be healthy and we thank you for it.

These are the things we are told to follow at all times and I wish it could be told to everybody regarding our territory, what’s going on. As we mentioned earlier, and the other Chief mentioned, that everything is slowly going down, getting less and less every time we go out to try and gather. You have everything on the — out there that — gathering the things and they’re not commercially getting — they’re just playing around with them.

I know everyone tells me to be careful with the land and resources and make sure that it’s clean. I need to repeat that, that’s what’s aiming at the Haisla Nation regarding our territory, our land.

I spent eight years in the council, along with other councillors, fighting to save a territory that was aimed by a logger — a logging outfit. It took us eight years to fight for it. We made it but it was a long hard work. The part I couldn’t understand about it, when we did get it preserved we weren’t given any money to help patrol it, yet we’re part of that area, and that’s Kitlope.

It took us eight years to fight for it in a council and as well as a community, not just a council, everybody in the community supported the council and they stood side-by-side right through. And most of the time I was away from home joining meetings. I was happy when they signed the agreement but I was really tired. I’m glad that I was part of it to see that happen for the future of my grandchildren and great grandchildren is what I’m talking about.

Again, you mention grandchildren, I’m here to speak in my share of our territory which is pipeline coming down our territory and also big ships navigating Douglas Channel. I clearly state in my community that the Haisla’s are facing a double-barrel gun — shotgun — if you bring those oil in by land, as well as navigating Douglas Channel. One spill from both of them will wipe out everything that we have, what we mentioned here; you’ll have no more.

Why I mentioned all that stuff that we gather, as you all know, during the hungry ‘30’s they call it, I often heard my Elders — we didn’t even know that the world was hungry, we were so rich in resources in our territory, we were never hungry, we were always eating, yet, other parts of the world were hungry because of the depression.

Again it saddens me to know that we’ll be joining that if anything happens to our territory here regarding that oil and the pipeline.

It brings into mind of what we told if you’re careless, you’re not going to get anything anymore. It’s not going to be us that’s going to suffer; like what I said it’s going to be our grandchildren. And the people that done the damage will just put their hands in their pockets and walk away, like Eurocan done to us. They polluted our river and they said enough is enough and they just walked away, never looking back.

It just terrifies me to know that we’re even facing about destruction with what’s coming before us, the Haisla Nation.

It’s very important that — I’m glad some of the young people are showing up here and they’re listening, I believe, by internet, as to what’s going on here and I strongly urge that, that they listen and take notes of what’s going on here, it’s their future why we’re here, you see the panel here, it’s their future while we’re sitting in front of you here, to let you know our concern.

As I told you before, the Haislas were taught how to conserve and preserve everything they get. I operated a boat for a rediscovery camp, which was a very powerful thing to do in teaching our young people our traditional system, not only for Haislas, but other First Nations as well as other countries, Sweden, Norway and I can’t remember the others, anyway, but — from Thailand. They all came down the States. Young people came.

They spent a whole month in the catch hole with us, some of them half a month because we taught them everything about how to dry fish, how to can fish and things like that. Pick berries; how to preserve it, how to use it, and the things that we used to eat.

Grease wasn’t the only thing that we ate with fish, but it came — it was good with everything that we had on a table at that time because we never used to get butter or anything like that, lard. It was used for making bread. It was used for boiling fish, everything. It was a good flavour for anything that you wanted to put it in.

Now we’re pretty scarce on that part due to eulachons are not here. And why I mention that, it’s going to be terrible, terrifying if everything disappears on us in our territory.

My father had a sailboat, as I mentioned, as a young boy. I’d like to go back to that and be out there. He used — he got a contract when Alcan first came to tow barge loads of groceries from freights from Butedale to Kemano, which wasn’t accessed by those big freighters. There was no docks there, just the skull grid.

And one weekend — one Friday afternoon, I was in time for him to come out of school and I asked if I could go along with him. It was a real beautiful morning when we got into Kemano Bay with our barge. As soon as you got in, they started to unload it. And my father was standing there and he was scratching his head, took his cap off and started scratching his head. And he said in our language this is what he seen then, this is what he was talking about.
And I asked him, “What are you talking about, Dad?” He said, “Your grandfather,” he said, “he had a premonition after encountering a Sasqua.” He had a spirit that went into him and he was able to foresee the future. He said he told the people — he called the people in Kemano and told them there’s going to be a big monster coming up on Kemano Bay and it’s going to go right up along that river. It’s going to go — he named that mountain. It’s going to go there and it’s going to bore a hole through there.

That was about 50 years after he died, then, it happened; almost 50 years, anyway. And that’s what dad was talking about when he said — this is what he was talking about then.
And it’s so true that there’s a lot of difference from that day on.

Everything started going down, which we thought was a better thing for us. It actually goes against our ability to gather the things we needed for our house.

I operated a tugboat. I worked for Redtow for three and a half years. I got laid off due to the fact that there was a cutback, five years and under, and I was 15 months short of my five years, so I voluntarily — they wanted to get me on as a deckhand, but I just told them I’m going home. That was when everything started going down after Eurocan started. I was working there all the time; they were bringing the material for Eurocan.

And right away, I noticed when the pulp mill started that it had a detrimental effect on the river, for they never dumped their effluent until night, and it was a horrible sight. It was higher than the deck of a tugboat, if you know how a tugboat looks like. The foam that was there coming down the river was higher than the tugboat I was operating on the back deck, and it smelled awful. My crew couldn’t stay on deck very long due to the bad smell of that effluent.
And when we complained about it, Eurocan told us — the President came to a public meeting at the old hall and told us, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not going to harm you any. There’s no poison in it.”

It’s sad to say, but a lot of my people that continued — that listened to him kept on eating that fish and they — most of them died with stomach cancer and different types of sickness came around just because that guy said it was safe to drink it.

Our Chief Councillor at that time challenged him, “I’ll go upriver with you, bring a cup. You drink one cup; I’ll drink one cup, too.” He wouldn’t make a move. We tried to beg him to go up there.
And I told my mother, “I don’t think you should eat that. It smells awful.” And my father spoke up, “Didn’t you hear that man spoke in the hall? He said it’s safe.” But I — we wouldn’t touch it anyway.

It was terrible, and it’s a bad experience way to learn how bad that thing is.
And just imagine what my grandchildren will go through if this happens, what’s coming before us.

I was one that witnessed the — like what I said, the impact of Alcan and Eurocan to our territory. It’s been devastating, really, to the fact that when Alcan first came around I was just a young boy. I remember that public meeting that they went to up in the oval hall.

That public meeting, one of the councillors got up and asked the Indian agency, “What are you doing over there? You’re sitting with an Alcan representative. You’re supposed to be sitting with us.” The councillor could not care less. They weren’t allowed to have a lawyer to represent them. In fact, Alcan proposed that they have their smelter set right here, right where we’re sitting, but it was too small for their liking, so they moved, which was a good thing in a small part. They moved over there where they’re at right now, where Rod’s trap line is.

Again, the question is, why weren’t we allowed to have a lawyer represent us? Just because we weren’t educated enough or something? I don’t know.

But anyway, in doing so, I was really sad, like what I said, at what’s going on, so as the other communities that are with me here today, the Bella Bella people. They’re here today to be with us. Kitasoo/Xaixais are here. Kitkaa are here, along with other First Nations. They’re here to support the Haislas in standing with them side by side. They want to stand in solidarity to show their support towards the Haisla Nations.

Thank you.


Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Rod Bolton

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.


Rod Bolton
Rod Bolton

My name is Rod Bolton. I was born here in Kitamaat Village in 1940. My late father’s name was also “Rod Bolton”. My Chief’s name is “Ligeiff” and also was a spokesperson for the late Tony Robinson and also Sammy Robinson now as one of the chiefs of the Beaver Clan.

I can remember as a very young child with my late cousins, Chris Wilson, Yvan Woods, going over the boat on the other side where there was no industries. There was just a beautiful place to go to; to go hunt and to go fish. There’s nothing around us.

I want to show you the area, the bagwaiyas and the wa’wais that I own. It’s a place where we harvest and where we fish for fish and hunt for food. That person up there is my late — John Bolton — that’s the one Sammy was talking about — Chief to see — and right around that area, the Kitimat River, that’s right by Sand Hill – – it’s right by Sand Hill, all the way down. That’s north of — south of Sand Hill, all the way down to Peace Creek — north of Peace Creek. That’s my wa’wais. That’s my trap line, registered under the government.

On June 7th, 1993, I was able to get the name of my late dad passed on, and the chief that’s sitting beside me was the one who put that name on le gare . Like I remember that time where — it was quite an experience for me. I was on the council for the period of probably 14 years or more, though it could be less, and one of the reasons why I didn’t run again was because of health reasons, I wasn’t very well at that time.

While I was in the council I worked, I worked on the trap lines, there was some trap lines that wasn’t registered and I worked on it until we got — we got them trap lines was registered. So I know the areas, I know the names of the area. The area that I have is called the Axta ; Anderson Creek, that’s where my trap line is.

The reason why I brought this up is the pipeline, if it was to be put in place it would run over all the streams that my trap line is on. I’m not an expert at oil but I watch the news of what’s going on. So that’s what I fear, if they ever get that pipeline in there it will do damage to our environment.
Eurocan just packed up and left, what they have that’s a pulp and paper, woods damaged our river, now they talk about this. That is a big concern of mine.

I don’t mind oil, not the oil we talk about but the eulachon oil. That’s what they want, eulachon oil.

I was on the Treaty team pretty near all my time with the council and I knew some of the areas that they were working on. Environmental departments got a lot to do with it, you know, we got the provincial government, we got the federal government.

As we speak, we don’t have any representatives here from the federal government. They are back east, they’re in Ottawa area. If they have environmental department then we haven’t seen them; they haven’t approached us.

We don’t want surprises; it happened in the past. When they issued out permits in our area we weren’t involved. We are the stewards of our land, we look after the land. If it’s gone it’s not going to come back again. We seen it in places like Alaska, Mexico, Russia, like what our Chief here said, we’re not — we’re peaceful people, we like to deal with it, to deal with our concerns.
I worked in Alcan for 32 years and I retired in 1998, it doesn’t mean that I stopped fishing, I still go out. Every chance that I get I like going out and bringing my grandchildren along with me and try and teach them.

One of my experiences, when my late father was — was going out with him getting trees; I can remember the cedar shakes that we made to make a smokehouse. So we still use that, we use that to our benefit to our people.

I think one of the things that we look at of where we get our information or wisdom or knowledge is how they trained us because we didn’t have anything and that’s experience and that’s what it brings to the table and that’s what we try to pass on to the younger ones, so they’ll be able to survive in this land, in this day of age.

We used to go to my wa’wais every chance we get, my dad and I, and there’s still fish that goes up there, there’s still some coho and there’s still some kinks that goes up there, trouts.

One of the comments — one of the — our people said was on the lower Axta area it was very important progress for people, everyone used to go there and get their coho for smoking. Every time there was a flood in the river the cohos would get washed down and they go up them small streams and our people knew that, so we were prepared for that.

When I got my wa’wais, my name, it was passed on to me by my late father from his mother and from his father; so that’s how it works. That’s how our system works. So when the name goes to a person like Sammy and I, the trap line goes with them, the wa’wais goes with them and there it becomes stewards of the land; that’s how it works.

Like what Sammy said, the oldest sister is the one that inherits the name and if it doesn’t take it then it goes to the next, it goes on like that.

One of the things that I learned from my father — late father was — and late Tommy, that you cannot wear the blanket or sit in his chair until the feast is over and it is done with. And there’s different places for seating in our feast hall; it’s all arranged depending on who hosted.

We’re not allowed to be part of the feast when we’re young; it was very serious business and fear that someone would knock somebody over with the soup or trip somebody. They had to either put up a feast or pay a person for that accident.
My sister, Ann Phillips, she lives in Vancouver Island. She’s the one that we call kikilfle , the woman that goes and supports the man, getting the game and buys all the dry goods. That’s her role and that’s her responsibility. The Haisla word for that is kikilfle or moodis (ph) and the people that was there at that time was there to witness what took on.

One of the things that were learned as I was growing up is the stewardship of east wa’wais. In order for me to go to Sammy’s wa’wais, if we want to harvest anything, we had to go to the person and ask permission. That’s how they could monitor it and be good stewardship and make sure that things are not overfished or people go there and clean it out. So that’s our culture.

We want to get back to the river. We take a look at what was brought up
— what Sammy brought up, the eulachons. They was — I’ve seen that eulachons. I know what Sammy’s talking about. It was plentiful. We still had a system how we harvest the eulachons.

I can relate to my late father speaking to me about the sea, sea to sea. He’d be the first one to drive piles, to harvest the eulachons. Nobody would drive piles, just him. And after he gets eulachons, he’d invite everybody to have that feast. And when they’re ready 24 hours later, they would say “Go; go harvest,” and everybody would go.

We talked about this in our group. That’s part of conservation, to let some escape so they can come back year after year. That’s how we conserve our fish, our clams, our cockles. We were taught that.

I think one of the points in all our areas, all our progress, everything is written down. On the book that we have it’s called Haisla Land, Nuyem Stories. There’s a lot of people who worked on this. We worked on it, and all the names are on the back of it. So we understand and know what it’s all about. It’s education for the younger generation and how it had — how it passes on to names.

I have before me the — the cycle of fish that goes up these streams. We have sprint salmon. We have coho. We got pink salmon. We have deer. We have black bear. We have geese. We have ducks. We have cedar bark, crab apples, marten, beaver and berries. All those we harvest.

That’s what I do in summertime; I go out and prepare for that and my daughter is the one that picks wild crab apples for me. So that’s what we do when we prepare.

One of the things we talked about, as Jennifer was — the trap lines and how I worked on it and when my late father passed away, I was able to get some of his stuff from a box where he kept all his papers and that’s where I found an old trap line registration. And it wasn’t like paper like this. It was like a skin and how thick it was and I showed it to J. Powell. Passing on down names, that’s how far back it

One of the things that I address is that if we see a spill of oil in our area, it’ll never recover. There’s no way of cleaning it up. I seen it. I got a friend in Alaska who’s going through all this. It still hasn’t recovered. That is our concern here, why we gather here.

And with that, I’d like to thank you for the time. Thank you very much.

Haisla voices at the Joint Review Panel: Samuel Robinson

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 Chief Jassee. My English name is Samuel Robinson. I’m from Beaver Clan;

Samuel Robinson
Samuel Robinson

hereditary Chief of the Haisla Nation. I was born here in Kitamaat Village but spent a lot of my childhood days with my father trapping in Wewanee.

The area is rich with all kinds of food; halibut, cod, mussels and all kinds of seafood. There are a lot of fur-bearing animals. This is why I’m really concerned if this is damaged. In Wewa, we have a hot spring there. The first tub was made by my dad and my uncle George, made out of wood. If there’s any kind of spill that will be damaged.

There is a lot of seafood there. There is still a lot of seafood, I know because I’m owner/operator of a fishing charter business for the last 45 years. There are still a lot of fishing charter boats that depend on fishing in the Douglas Channel. I also watch the commercial fishermen. I know every inch of our territory because I’m out there almost every day in the summertime running my business.

I’ll get back to the head of the Kitimat River; this is where my concern starts.

We used to fish the number one reserve for a fish called eulachons, which is now no more because of pollution in the river for the last 30 years. But the river is not dead yet. The salmon still go up there; that’s why we have to protect it. I know we can’t do much about the eulachons now, but the salmon still go up there.

This is our last resort. Thank you for listening to me.

Up the river, we spend our days there, harvesting eulachons. In my childhood days, you didn’t need a net, you didn’t need hook, and you didn’t need anything. You can pick the eulachons out of the water. In fact you could walk across to the other side. That’s how plentiful it was when we were thriving. No more eulachons.

From the eulachon camp, we follow the river down to Kacla’isaa in my language Kacla is, English, “foot of the river.” There on the left-hand side, you’ll see a rock, a figure of a human being. We call it in my language, kwalach; that means sissy. It was used to teach young children, teenagers, not to run away from enemy but to stand up or else you’ll turn into a rock.

That’s what it is used for, to teach our children. This is what I’m concerned about, if it’s covered up with something. You travel down the same river, foot of the river, about a few lengths down you come to another carving, carving on rocks we call handumatsa in my language. It means bow and arrow, hatweegit. That protects the river; that’s what it’s there for.

And you travel down into the sea you come to my village, and at the point called Raley Point, right outside the south end of Kitamaat Village, there is another carving right down the beach, the figure is of a killer whale. You walk along the beach further to a creek called Wart, another carving is there and it’s carved, the figure is a human face. These are all signals that we were here for a long time.

If you look across the bay, right across the Bish Creek there’s another historic site there. We call it Huntclic in my language. It means targeting area. When the raiders come to raid my village they target in this rock. And the old people used to tell me the story — this is just within 100 years. The shafts of the arrows were sticking out. When the white man came here, they heard of it and went to check it and they found the remains of the arrowheads.

You travel down a little ways more and there’s a rock sticking out, the name of it is Kabat Regat. It’s a historical site too that teaches the young kids about sex and all that, what you’ll turn into if you misuse it. Adultery was a no -no in my village and that’s what this was for, to teach the young kids.

You travel down furthermore, you come to a place called Gilttoyees, a long inlet, and on the south mouth of the river — of the inlet you’ll see paintings, paintings of Indian paint telling who owns that area, who was there. And I’m one of the last ones that can read the signs and it makes me — tears come out of my eyes.

You follow the channel; you come to a place called Foch Lagoon. There was a village there — still there, a historic site too that will be affected by whatever damage. These were half human beings and half animals. It’s recorded in our history. We call it Fochfu in my language.

So these are all the places that I’m really worried about.

And you go further down the channel, we go into the Hartley Bay area, there are big boulders there carved in stone. It’s still there. Now I will tell you what the reason is, why these are carved in a tidal water. Most of it is below low water.

The Chief hired helpers to carve these rocks at low tide so when the raiders come in they will be the first one to spot the raiders and warn the Chief to get away. They were also helpers that carved mid-tide; these were done to warn the Chief, early warning, when the raiders come.

These are all the places that I’m worried about. It’s our history and it’s how we teach our children and our teenagers up till today.

And you go up to the Kitlope, at Kemano Village, at the south end of the village there’s another carving, a carving of a human being, a human face, That’s to protect that village from raiders. You go up to Kitlope, at the mouth of the river you’ll see all kinds of paintings telling who owns that place — we own it.

So these are all the things that I’m worried about. If it’s covered up with oil how are we going to protect ourselves? This is my concern.

And getting back to the sisur rock in the mouth of the water. If we — are we going to protect ourselves or are we all going to turn into stone? I don’t know. I’m happy — I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.

So all my area where I trap, where I trap — my dad’s favourite trap, I own it now. There are an abundance of fish there. There’s halibut, all kind of seafood, all kind of birds, all kind of fur animals.

This is what I’m concerned about, because my people, my family and everybody survived on all these animals. Please help us and hear us so we can continue to live the way we are. We are who we are.

I am the 11th Haimus, hereditary Chief of Kitimaat Village. My name is Jassee. I was born into the bloodline; that is why I’m a chief. I did not choose to be a chief. All our lives my brother and I were trained in the role of responsibility as a leader of the Beaver Clan and the Haisla Nation. It just didn’t happen overnight.

I started my training from my grandmother and mother when I was only
12 years old. I know all the history, laws, ins and out of the Native culture. Probably
I’m the last one. So there, hear me, please.

The transfer of my name was done according to custom tradition of our ancestors. The oldest son of the mother is first in line for the title. When he dies the next oldest brother takes over, the son to be, same bloodline clan as the mother.

My brother Tom — the late Tom Robinson, my brother — held this name before me for 50 years. So if you add all the chiefs together it comes to a lot of numbers.

Our nation is subdivided by a clan system according to your mother’s line. The Beaver Clan, the Raven work together. The Eagle Clan, Fish, Salmon, and Killer Whale, each clan is headed by the chief who acts as their leader and all the directions of Jassee of the Beaver Clan. The major benefit of this system keeps history, maintains law, protects family, divides responsibility and education.

During a trauma, a celebration, a major undertaking all clan members provide comfort and support. We know ourselves, Haisla, which means “People Living at the Foot of the River at the South End.” Haisla means “south.” You know we’re in the north but to the Nass Valley people we’re the south people; that’s why we’re called Haisla.

Later the Tshimshian called us Kitamaat, which means “People of the Snow.” We speak part Kwakuit language. Group of why we understand people from clan too, Bellabella, Alert Bay, Macaw from the United States. Our territory is located approximately centre of the north and south border of the west coast of B.C. We are surrounded by other First Nations.
Our territory includes the land and waters surrounding all of Kitimat River, the Douglas Channel up to including Gardner Canal. We know all these places by Haisla name and by the use of their resources.

In the past, during the mid-winter, our people move over gathering and providing food, making tools, building canoes, drying salmon, digging for clams and cockles, collecting roots, berries, plants, medicine; for many other reasons.

We live here in Kitamaat Village which was used as a winter settlement because of the location from extreme weather conditions. My mother, late mother, Laura, was asked how long we have lived here. She motioned with her thumb and her index finger almost together and said: “Since the trees were this small.” That’s my mother.

Judging from the growth of the spruce tree located near the Kitimat River Oolikan camp Housing Site, we have been here for 1,500 to 2,000 years according to the growth of the tree. Our people have travelled various of locations to harvest food, material, trading with other communities up and down the Coast by dugout canoe.

We also travelled by land through the B.C. interior. For example, our people in Kimaloo area travelled over the mountain to trade our eulachon grease with people living in the B.C. interior. Some married there and some of us still have relations living there.

We know our ancestors travelled up and down the West Coast of what is called now “the United States”. Because of our isolat ion, we had to be self-sufficient, depending our ability to utilize our territory resources: the forest for its plants and animals; the river for its varieties of food, seafood, shell fish and other seafood.

Our main source is the salmon which we preserve by the hundreds for each family for immediate use and winter use. It worries me to think all of these will be lost and destroyed when there is a spill. Mark my word, when there is a spill. Experience shows it will happen.

We have always been taught to take only what we need and to leave the harvest site in the same or better manner, condition, which — when we leave the area. This is a global concern to keep everything clean now.

We always have been a peaceful nation but when it isn’t through discussion and negotiation, when all fails, we went to war to protect our family, our rights, our ownership of food, shelter and safety.

When they made our reservations, our Chiefs had very little education; in fact, couldn’t write or read. But we had one stand-out Chief named Sunre. His name was Johnny Bolton. On September 1st, 1913, the Royal Commission interviewed Kitamaat Indian Chief Sunre. Chief Johnny Bolton made the following statement — Chief Johnny Bolton, this is his words:

“We are troubled about our land. It is not straight to us somehow. It is ours because we were born here, our forefathers before us. We want you to understand it. We want to know how Government got the land outside the Reserve. Chairman, we have not anything to do with land outside the Reserve, we have no authority to settle that question at all. It is no use bringing it before us.”

“We are troubled about how the Government has gone and sold our land outside our Reserve. We know it’s our land and not the Government’s and they have gone out and sold it and done what they like with it.”


For that, I don’t want that to happen again. We want to say — we want our say in this process that’s coming up, this pipeline. We will be not walked over again like the way they’ve done on the Reserve system. We want to have a voice and we’re going to have a voice.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Growing controversy as Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings begin at Kitamaat Village

Heiltsuk elders arrive
Elders from the Heiltsuk First Nation at Bella Bella arrive at Kitamaat Village on the evening of Jan. 9, 2011. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The long awaited Joint Review Panel hearings into the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Haisla Recreation Centre in Kitamaat Village.

Elders from the Heiltsuk First Nation at Bella Bella and from the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation at Klemtu arrived at the Kitamaat Village dock shortly after 5 p.m. Monday evening.

The elders will take part in the opening ceremony at Kitamaat Village Tuesay morning, along with the leaders and elders of the Haisla First Nation.

Members of the Haisla and other First Nations will be first to testify, followed by other residents of Kitimat.  It is understood that Enbridge, which has proposed building the pipeline, will only have a token presence at the hearings. Enbridge officials will likely give most of their testimony when the hearings reach Edmonton.

The hearings, already controversial on a national level, became more heated Monday when Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued an open letter accusing radical environmentalists under foreign influence of blocking the project and also undermining the Canadian economy.

Controversy also grew late Monday when an article in the Terrace Daily by editor Merv Ritchie claimed that Tuesday’s hearings will be disrupted by agents provacateurs. Ritchie says the paper received calls concerning statements made by some of the passengers on inbound fights to Terrace Kitimat airport.

“We are paid protesters”, stated one among a group, as reported to us “We are coming to discover the emotional issues of the people at the protests.”

Members of the local groups are also saying that the Joint Review Panel has shortened their allotted presentation time from three hours to one half hour.