Kitimat voices at Northern Gateway: Kitimat Valley Naturalists

Northwest Coast Energy News will use selected testimony from the Joint Review hearings, where that testimony can easily turned into a web post. Testimony referring to documents, diagrams or photographs will usually not be posted if  such references are required. Depending on workload, testimony may be posted sometime after it originally occurred. Posting will be on the sole editorial judgment of the editor.

By April MacLeod, Walter Thorne and Dennis Horwood

We would first like to thank the Haisla Nation

hosting this hearing. We recognize we are guests on Haisla land and that we are also on Haisla territory. We would also like to thank the JRP for this opportunity to make the oral presentation.
Who is the Kitimat Valley Naturalists? We are an independent Kitimat organization. We’re open to the entire community and we are an active member of B.C. nature. Our goal as a group is to pursue outdoor nature-oriented recreation.

As a group, we have 40 years of bird and mammal records and research papers. We have been involved as stream keepers, working closely with Department of Fisheries and Oceans. And we are also considered by the birding community to be citizen scientists.

We believe we have little to gain and much to lose from an oil pipeline, terminus and tanker traffic, and the purpose of this presentation is to show what we believe we have to — we stand to lose.

The focus of this whole presentation is the Kitimat River estuary and it is one of the five largest estuaries on our northern B.C. Coast. It is ranked by Ducks Unlimited as one of B.C.’s most important estuaries. And to back that up, a technical report showed it was the top three in total biological and social values.

And so everyone is clear, scientists define an estuary as much more than just mudflats and meadows. The Kitimat River estuary in fact extends many kilometres past the inner tidal areas and well into Douglas Channel.

The estuary foreshore is a relatively flat area, and at a distance, its beauty and importance are difficult to see. Up close, however, things change.

The Kitimat River estuary is 1,230 hectares, and in perspective, that’s three times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It is covered in sitka spruce, western hemlock and deciduous trees, interspersed with lush meadows, slews, ponds and rivulets.

Rich, organic soils, packed with nutrients, help create immense fertile meadows. These meadows and land support the growth of many native species.

In the spring and summer, it is a wildlife — wildflower and wildlife heaven. In early times, the root of the chocolate lily, seen in the insert, was used by the Haisla and early pioneers as a food source.

Shooting stars are just one of the many wildflowers found in the meadows of the estuary. Many people, like me, a local native, native natural photographer, I like to walk around the estuary purely for the floral opportunity of — floral photographic opportunities.

The same nutrients that allow flowers to flourish also support a major outdoor activity, fishing.

Fishers from B.C., Alberta and the world come here to fish. Why? Because Kitimat is really a fishing Mecca.

Kitimat’s river — the Kitimat River brood stock is amongst the best in the world. Where else on this planet can you catch a 27-pound steelhead or a 76-pound Chinook salmon. Elite fly-in fishing lodges located throughout the Douglas Channel target Kitimat River fish.

The B.C. sports fishing industry yields annual returns in the billions of dollars. Kitimat’s share in a year is in the millions.

Kitimat is a 10 out of 10 fishing destination. And if you don’t like our fish, try our prawns. Even celebrities know about this area and come here to fish. When the Vancouver Canucks arrive, they keep it very secret.

The Kitimat and Douglas Channel river systems have attracted recreational anglers for decades, starting in the 1950s, as you can see. Some have an extremely high profile: The Right Honourable Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Kevin Costner, the actor, and Carey Price, a B.C. boy, our goalie for the Montreal Canadiens.

Hunters as well as fishers depend on the Kitimat River estuary. Birds, like fish, are attracted to estuaries. The Kitimat River estuary is a stopover during both the spring and fall migration. Trumpeter swans that nest in Alaska fly here and stay for the winter.

One of the major groups of migrants are waders, long-legged birds that generally feed in the shallow waters and mudflats. Over 20 species of this group of birds use our estuary as a fast-food outlet. They stop, stay for a day or two, then fly on to as far away as South America.
Twenty years ago, great blue herons were a rare bird at any time of the year in the Kitimat Valley. This blue-listed bird, meaning an indigenous species considered vulnerable, has made the Kitimat River estuary its winter refuge. Now these birds are regularly reported on Christmas bird counts.

Snow geese used to be a rare bird here as well. We now record them regularly during spring and fall migrations and in flocks sometimes exceeding 500 individuals. This estuary has become a vital link along their migration route.

Typically, many birds desert the estuary during the summer months, but we still have many species that rely on the estuary trees, meadows and waterways to raise their young.
One of the most mysterious birds in the world lives here. The marbled murrelet, a robin-sized seabird thrives in the Douglas Channel system. These birds feed by day in the rich channel waters, but at nightfall they fly inland to old-growth trees and locate their saucer-sized nest in complete darkness. No scientist, or anyone for that matter, knows how they do this.

The estuary and Douglas Channel have immense recreational values. Sailboats, kayaks and power craft all ply the local waterways. Alaska-bound yachts often divert into Douglas Channel. Why do they come here? They come here for solitude, pristine wilderness, private beaches that urbanites from all over Canada can only dream about.

Author John Kimantas predicts Douglas Channel will evolve into a world- class kayaking destination. He is considered to be the Pacific Coast authority on kayaking.

We are blessed with a network of Haisla cabins that all visitors are welcome to use. These two kayakers visit here every year from Alberta. They keep coming back. Why? They want that wilderness experience.

Within the shelter of Minette Bay, a major part of the estuary, local recreational events such as dragon boat racing and training take place. We have several non-commercial hot springs. Anyone can use them at any time of the year. They’re free.

Ecotourism on the estuary and throughout the Douglas Channel system is second to none. It is simply world class. Where else on the same day can you see three different looking bears on the same day? Lots of places have black bears, but we have Kermode bears and grizzlies a plenty. They love our salmon and we enjoy watching them fish.

Orcas regularly visit here in spring but can be seen at any time. Sea lions come and go with the fish and tides. Seals are always present in the channel, estuary and even the river. They add character and enjoyment for visitors and locals alike.

But nothing — absolutely nothing — beats the sight of a sounding humpback whale. If we lose our whales, we know we will have lost much more.

So in conclusion, the Kitimat Valley Naturalists believe we need to strike harmony and balance in our ecosystem here and, as such, we believe the Northern Gateway is not an acceptable risk. We simply have too much to lose.



Enbridge confirms that Gitxsan hereditary chiefs formally reject pipeline deal

The Gitxsan hereditary chiefs have formally rejected the deal signed in December by Elmer Derrick to support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

A meeting in Hagwilge Tuesday evening rejected by a vote of 28 to 8 the controversial equity deal.

The vote may also lead to the end of the blockade of the Gitxsan Treaty Society office in Hazelton.

Gitxsan spokesman John Olson told CFJW says there needs to be an all-clans meeting before the blockade is lifted.

“And I say it’s an all clans meeting, that means the Gitxsan Treaty Society members are more than welcome to come out and participate in this meeting, and I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Olson explained.

The chiefs say they want a written acknowledgement from the society that the Enbridge deal is rejected before removing their blockade, which went up shortly after Derrick announced the agreement in early December.

Enbridge Northern Gateway spokesman Paul Stanway issued a statement:

Enbridge has learned that the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs have reconsidered their prior endorsement of Gitxsan participation as equity partners in our project

While we are disappointed at this shift in stance in relation to our 2009 protocol agreement with the Nation and in relation to 2011 meetings with Hereditary representatives, we respect this decision.

We look forward to receiving written communication from the Gitxsan Hereditary chiefs, so that we have greater clarity in relation to their current perspectives. And we will continue to engage with the Gitxsan Nation in relation to the project.

In the meantime, we will also continue to work and engage with corridor First Nations groups, including the more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements deals with Enbridge.

Analysis: The collapse of BC’s oil rich economy is a lesson for BC, Alberta and the world


British Columbia once had the richest, longest-lasting, sustainable oil economy on the planet.

That’s almost all gone now. While the environmental movement loves to quote Joni Mitchell’s “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,” the collapse of BC’s oil economy is perhaps the best example in history of what Mitchell meant in her song. Big Yellow Taxi.

British Columbia even supplied much-needed oil to Alberta.

The collapse of that oil economy is a cautionary tale for BC in the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. That’s because a pipeline breach near a key river or a tanker disaster on the BC coast would kill the last remnants of a commodity that made BC oil-rich for thousands of years.

The collapse of that oil economy is a lesson for Alberta and for the entire world.

It should be a lesson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and Environment minister Peter Kent, but it’s one that they will ignore.

The collapse of that oil economy is a lesson that should be taught ( but isn’t) by the departments of economics, business and politics at oil-patch academic central, the University of Calgary, which trained Stephen Harper and produces those self-satisfied commentators who can’t see anything beyond the Rockies and their own pet economic theories.

The collapse of the BC oil economy is proof that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” much loved of conservative economists is actually a deathly hallow in the hands of all those who are too greedy to care or who don’t bother to see what is actually in front of their blinkered eyes.

Much of the testimony at the Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings at the Haisla Recreation Centre on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, was about that economic collapse. Much of the testimony in Terrace, at the Sportsplex, on Thursday, January 12, 2012, was about that economic collapse.

The national and international media that came to cover that story didn’t realize what they were hearing. Only a couple of stories mentioned the ancient oil economy in BC but just in passing. It is probable that the members of the Joint Review Panel didn’t understand either, but it may be by the end of the hearings, once the panel has heard the story over and over, they may begin to realize how important it is.

(That is one reason that all the testimony before the Joint Review Panel is important. It’s the old story of hitting the donkey over the head with the two by four. The conservatives in the government, in the universities and the media who say repeat testimony isn’t needed are wrong. Sometimes a story has to be told numerous times before the powers that be realize, hey this is important. )

This isn’t about petroleum.

Nor is it about salmon oil or whale oil.

It’s about a small, some say ugly (compared to the magnificent sockeye salmon), member of the smelt family, a very distant relative of the salmon, the oolichan.

(There are several spellings. Euclachon is the usual academic spelling. One rare spelling is “hooligan.” That’s the one that spell checks and auto corrects prefer. Oolichan is the preferred spelling on the northwest coast, and thus that is what this article will use).

It was trade in oolichan oil and oolichan grease that sustained that economy in what is now British Columbia for thousands of years before the coming of Europeans.

Oolichan poster
Poster celebrating the oolichan released by artist Roy Henry Vickers

Trade in oolichan oil and oolichan grease created the “grease trails,” the trading routes leading from coastal British Columbia throughout the province and across the Rockies into Alberta.

Drive many of the highways in northern British Columbia and, like other parts of North America, where highways follow “Indian trails,” you are likely driving on a grease trail.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the grease trails, the trade in oolichan oil and grease may have begun as early as 5,000 years ago. By 2,000 years ago, the First Nations of British Columbia had a vibrant trading culture, with goods exchanged throughout the province, south to what is now the United States and north to Alaska.

Just as trade and industry in the Old World prompted the creation of infrastructure, the oolichan trade blazed trails and lead to technological developments such as suspension bridges and improved canoes.

The culture of BC First Nations has been disrupted for the past two centuries by smallpox and other diseases, creation of the reserves, by government and church paternalism, by the assimilation of the Indian Act, by residential schools and general acculturation. Despite those horrendous challenges, the oolichan-based trade has, left a multi-millenial legacy of expertise in trade negotiations. That is one factor in the current debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. Ignorance of history is why the oil-patch and the Harper government have underestimated the First Nations in the current controversy.

Rich fish of the Pacific

The oolichan’s scientific name is Thaleichthys pacificus, “rich fish of the Pacific,” with oil making up to 15 per cent of its body content. That was the source of the rich oil economy.

Another name for the oolichan is “candle fish,” because often a dried oolichan was used as a candle by early European settlers.

The Gitxsan First Nation, now embroiled in a dispute after one chief signed a deal with Enbridge, traditionally called the oolichan the “fish for curing humanity.”

Oolichan grease/oil is rich in omega and other oils now in demand around the world. It is likely that the oolichan grease/oil countered the tendency to depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by the rainy, overcast climate of coastal British Columbia, since omega oils are now recommended as anti-depressant.

Oolichan (James Crippen photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Properly managed, renewable in a way whale oil could never be, the oolichan could have been a multi-billion dollar industry, providing wealth to First Nations and export dollars for all of modern British Columbia.

It never happened.

When the Europeans arrived in British Columbia, they ignored the knowledge of the First Nations, ignored the oolichan. First the economic attraction was the sea otter, then it was the forests and the salmon, and then mining and hydro-electric developments. All the time the oolichan was out of sight and out of mind and becoming collateral damage of other industrial development.

The Kitimat River was one of the richest sources of that rich oolichan oil resource.

Samuel Robinson
Samuel Robinson

Haisla Chief Samuel Robinson, who is 78, told the Joint Review Panel: “We used to fish… for oolichans 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 oohlicans now, but the salmon still go up there.

“Up the river, we spend our days there, harvesting oohlicans. 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 oohlicans out of the water. In fact you could walk across to the other side. That’s how plentiful it was when we were thriving. [Now] No more oolichans.”

The oolichan stocks across northwestern North America have been declining for a century. No one, except First Nations knew or cared about this valuable, ugly little fish. Thirty years ago the pace of decline increased with the industrial development in the years following the Second World War. By the new millennium, the oolichan population was crashing from Oregon to north of Kitimat. The only viable stocks left are in the Nass and Skeena Rivers and those stocks are in trouble.

Endangered species

The oolichan in the Fraser River had completely collapsed by 2003. There was little, if any, media coverage. Compare that to the coverage of the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run. Major headlines and now a Royal Commission investigating why.

In March, 2010, in California, Oregon and Washington, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service declared the oolichan to be a threatened species.

In January, 2011, I was tipped by three independent informed sources that the Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada would soon declare the oolichan north from the US border up to the Skeena and the Nass as an endangered species. At a meeting of non-aboriginal recreational fishing guides that same month that there were also worries expressed that climate change might be affecting the remaining viable oolichan stocks in the Skeena and the Nass. There is no recreational, tourist oolichan harvest, by tradition it belongs to First Nations. The guides had no direct economic stake in the oolichan, but those guides knew very well from experience that the oolichan is a key indicator species in the collapse of all fish stocks in the rivers that they love and which sustain their business.

This crisis was out of sight, out mind with most of British Columbia and ignored by the rest of Canada.

I was unable to get any interest in this “scoop” from any of the national news organizations among my freelance clients. (One admittedly budget strapped editor told me “we’ve done fish from BC.”) Compare that with the ongoing coverage for decades of the cod crisis on Canada’s east coast.

The day the decision came out, in May, 2011 the oolichan was just one of the several species mentioned in the national news round up of new threats to the environment. Here is what COSEWIC news release said:

The Eulachon or ‘candlefish’, so-called because of its exceptionally high oil content and historical use as a candle, was assessed for the first time at this meeting. This small fish was once a cultural mainstay of many First Nations groups of coastal BC and the origin of the famous ‘grease trails’ that linked coastal and inland communities. Since the early 1990s, many traditional fisheries for this species have seen catastrophic declines of 90% or more, and the species is facing extirpation in many rivers. The cause is unclear but may be related to reductions in marine survival associated with shifting environmental conditions, by-catch, directed fishing and predation. Only the Nass River still supports a fishery but even here numbers have declined. The Nass / Skeena Rivers population of Eulachon was assessed as Threatened. Further south, the Central Pacific Coast and the Fraser River populations have experienced even greater declines resulting in an Endangered designation for both populations.


In the national media, only the Mark Hume of The Globe and Mail looked closely at the oolichan collapse, much later, in a story on May 28,. 2011 How to bring back the Eulachon?

In November, 2011, COSEWIC announced it that is now reassessing the health of the oolichan in the Skeena and Nass rivers.

In his testimony, on Jan. 10, 2012. Haisla Chief Counsellor, Ellis Ross said: “I was too young to go up the Kitimat River before the oolichan was wiped out. I missed out in that teaching.

“Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oolichans annually, these are the stories that are passed down to me now. It’s not about this is where you go to fish; this is where your fishing camp is. It’s about this is where it used to be. This is what we used to do… “

Ellis Ross
Haisla chief counsellor Ellis Ross testifies before the Joint Review Panel at Kitamaat Village, Jan. 10, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Ross testified he has being going through the archives and records of the Haisla dealings with the federal and British Columbia governments. “All the assertion letters that council has sent out in the last 40 years in trying to determine what the Haisla Nation goal was. And it all had a common theme: protect the environment; bring back the environment. It always had that.”

He spoke of traditional knowledge and teaching. “Don’t disrupt the environment. Don’t spill any kerosene or gasoline into the river. Don’t litter in the river. Respect not only the oolichan and the river itself, respect your neighbours because once you are done with a fishing spot, you are going to process your oolichan and somebody else is going to move into that spot. So leave it the way you got it.

It’s a crime

“So as I was telling you, I missed out on all that, and it’s a crime. It’s an
absolute crime.

“The last story I got from the Kitimat River was my dad with Ray Green Sr. going up there after everybody else gave up on the Kitimat River. They tried to harvest oolichan so they could boil it into oolichan grease, but the end product smelled like effluent coming from the Eurocan Mill, so they thought it was just a product of the water itself. So they went inland a few hundred yards and dug a hole and tried to get the groundwater out of that and try to see if they could boil the oolichans using that. The result was the same.

“After that, there was no point because a run that estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually got reduced to maybe 50 individual oohlicans per year. And I know that because we’re trying to struggle every year to find oolichan so we can test them for taint. If that’s not a signal to Kitimat, if not B.C. and not to Canada, something’s wrong. I don’t know what that is.

“If that was a commercially viable product, the whole country would have been up in arms demanding some sort of report and accountability from DFO. Nothing. We got nothing. Nobody came to our aid.

Ross told of the story of how the Haisla first came to the Kitimat region, how other First Nations were afraid of a giant monster that guarded the channel. When the Haisla reached the Kitimat River estuary it turned out the “monster” was, in fact, so many gulls that they appeared as one huge body when they took to wing.

“I can’t imagine that,” Ross testified. “If there’s thousands upon thousands of seagulls doing that at a distance of maybe greater than seven miles viewing it, imagine how much oolichan was in the river that those seagulls are feeding on.”

“The personal experience I have with the Kitimat River in 2003-2004 was going down to Vancouver to meet with the Minister of Environment. So we were trying to save what was left of the Kitimat River, we were trying to save what was left of the oolichans.

“So the pulp and paper mill couldn’t reach its intended targets in terms of effluent dumping and emissions so what was the provincial government’s solution; let’s amend the permit, let’s make it larger so they can reach their targets. They didn’t say anything about making the company reach those targets, fulfil its obligations, they just said let’s make the permit bigger.

“Well, we told the provincial government ‘If that happens, if you do that against our wishes we’re going to court’. The Minister at the time had the gall to put it back to us and say, ‘Okay, the company has already said that if they’re forced to abide by these permit conditions they most likely will have to close down. How will Haisla feel when you guys are the ones to blame for this pulp mill shutting down, how will you explain that to your people that working inside Eurocan’.

“And we said, ‘Go ahead and do it, I’m pretty sure for the six people out of 500 working in Eurocan mill we can find other opportunities for them’. Six people, and you look at every industry in Haisla territory over the years it was always started by Haisla people but they were slowly squeezed out for one reason or another.

Promises of jobs

“It’s all based on promises that we’ll come in, we’ll give you employment, we won’t affect the environment, we’ll listen to your wishes. Basically saying whatever they could to get their project approved and then guess what, less than 10 years later we find out that it was all a lie; they just said what they could just to get that permit, their certificate, whatever it was.

“I was born in 1965 and by the time I was old enough to start joining the fishing party to go up the Kitimat River by 1975 it was starting to decline. It didn’t take long; it didn’t take long at all. Salmon weren’t far behind it. There’s a reason why that state-of-the-art hatchery was built right beside the Kitimat River not long after. There’s a reason for just about everything that happened to Haisla in the last 60 years and it’s all directly linked to industrial development.

“So instead of getting taught how to fish for oohlicans, how to process oohlicans, how to boil for oohlicans, how to collect the right wood for burning for the oolichan pot, how to skim the grease, how to bottle it, no, I’m taught how the government issued permits that took it all away.”

In 2010, West Fraser shut the Eurocan mill, killed 500 jobs in Kitimat and walked away, leaving their mess in Kitimat for the current and future generations, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike to deal with. That is the deathly hallow of the invisible hand.

On January 12, 2012 , in Terrace, Chief Counsellor Don Roberts, of the Kitsumkalum First Nation appeared before the Joint Review Panel. In wide ranging testimony Roberts also spoke about the his First Nation’s concerns about the oolichan:

“The oolichans are from the Bering Sea, that’s where they come from. The food chain that they’re feeding up there is not researched. We’re not up there. But they feed something — they probably feed that same fish that’s migrating in here.

“The oolichan then come across the north end of Haida Gwaii and enter the coastal rivers.

“About six weeks ago, I heard on CBC they were talking with the elders
over Haida Gwaii. The pod of killer whales that never went south, they’re wondering
why. But a pod, about 40, with a bunch of pups, what they’re doing is feeding on that herring. They’re feeding on the oolichan.

He described about how after leaving Haida Gwaii. the oolichan come out of Grenville Channel and enter the Skeena River.

“This is where the oolichan hang out…This is a hundred fathom area, and they hang off [this] drop-off there, 100 fathoms, and they start moving in there in November and they just hang around there. They come from the Hecate Strait.

“Right now, we are in January. They’re still down in here yet. Probably if you go down there you’ll start seeing the life activity around there because the fish got to hold out there until the eggs are ripe and they start getting used to the [reduced] salinity in the water. Because way out in the ocean there, it’s almost 100 percent salinity…they’ll hold out here all of February, then move in.”

(The oolichan are in a zone where the fresh water from the rivers reduces the salinity of the ocean. This is where the oolichan adjust before moving inland, up river)

“In Grenville Channel, there is clam and cockle digging is from mid-October to March. The clams and cockles food harvest is always eaten with oolichan grease.

“Again, we are showing the importance of oolichan. It’s used as a main part of our culture. It’s used in everything…we eat it with salmon berries, now we’re eating it with the seaweed back then and the clams; every dish.

Food chain

At the mouth of the Skeena, “all the Chinook salmon are all in there but they all migrate in there. Everything that hits the Skeena all comes in here. All these tributaries all feed in salmon. The oolichans come in these deep channels and they start feeding into the Skeena. All the cods and all the halibut, everything comes in there, everything.

“When the oohlicans come in you can go down there and the halibut are there. And if you go there they’re [the oolichan] not there, you’ve got to dig really hard to get a halibut this time of the year. And after the oohlicans make their run in then you go out there again and they’re there.

“There’s the the sea prunes. I don’t know what Canada calls it, but that’s what we call it. They grow all along form Chatham Sound to Hecate Strait. It’s a delicacy. You pick it, you steam it, you peel that black off, the cells, the spine, and you dip it in oolichan grease and soya sauce, and you’ve got a dish.”

Roberts showed a map to the Joint Review Panel. “This is the map that the government showed us where the pipeline is going to run — the steamships are going to run, Enbridge. Kitimat all the way up there, come down, propose to go down here or propose to go out here. But all this area I’ve been talking about, there’s a — there’s the Skeena River right there. They [the oil tankers] just run right by it.

“All the halibut grounds are out here, right around all out there, you’re running right over it. All the seaweed grounds are all right there, all the way down here for the other Bands. All the way down. Abalone, the sea cucumbers, and the oolichan come right through there, the head of the food chain.”

That is the danger that First Nations and others fear, the destruction of the northwestern food chain.

New poster

Oolichan oil posterThis weekend, the distinguished aboriginal artist, Roy Henry Vickers, originally from Kitkatla, near Hazelton, now based in Campbell River, a member of the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia, recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee medal, whose work has been Canada’s gift to world leaders including Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, and can be seen at Vancouver International Airport, publicly issued a poster, free for reproduction: “Oolichan Oil, not Alberta Oil.”

Since the declaration that the oolichan are an endangered species, those of aware of the issue in British Columbia have waited to see if the government of Stephen Harper will do anything, anything at all, to restore the oolichan stocks. After all, oolichan sustained the oil economy of British Columbia for at least two millenia, probably more.

Harper has not only done absolutely nothing about the oolichan, his government is ordering even more drastic cuts to the staff and resources of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans along the British Columbia coast. (The BC government also has some responsibilities for the oolichan as well since they divide their time between the ocean, which is federal, and the rivers which, except for the salmon, are provincial jurisdiction. The BC Liberals haven’t done anything either.)

The reason there is no trust for the Harper government in northwestern British Columbia, even among many northwestern conservatives, is that northwestern British Columbia is ignored not only on the oolichan issue, but on halibut allocation, the export of raw logs, the possible danger of farmed Atlantic salmon in southern British Columbia to the wild stocks in the north, the cutbacks at DFO and the Coast Guard. It appears to many here that Stephen Harper is perfectly prepared to sacrifice northwestern British Columbia for the sole benefit of Alberta and the bitumen sands.

The decline of the forest industry, while on one hand devastating, at least for now, for the economy of British Columbia, is slowly beginning to restore some of the rivers to health.

Imagine if the rivers were fully restored, and the oolichan came back to the sustainable, harvestable, economic levels that drove the BC economy for up to 5,000 years.

Along with salmon, herring and halibut, an oolichan harvest would provide all of British Columbia, First Nations and the rest of the province, with many hundreds more on-going jobs than the miniscule handful of permanent jobs this province will get along the Northern Gateway Pipeline route. It’s an ideal hope, of course, but an oolichan harvest would provide jobs and support the economy without the dangers of a major pipeline breach killing the river or an inevitable tanker accident, caused by human error (as all major shipping accidents are caused by human error) destroying the coast.

It appears that the Harper government is absolutely determined to put all of the Canadian economy in to one oily basket, the bitumen sands, and is refusing to consider any alternatives, especially any sustainable alternatives with the “green” label.

The great distances in northwestern BC mean people have to drive. The world economy will be dependent on petroleum for the time being and efforts to find viable, economic alternatives are mostly half hearted and  sometimes even blocked for ideological reasons.

So, one has to be pessimistic. Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Peter Kent have made it crystal clear that the Northern Gateway pipeline will go ahead, no matter what and likely no matter what the Joint Review Panel says. So far in the hearings not a day has gone by without at least one witness telling the panel they believe the hearings are rigged in favour of Enbridge and the Conservative government.

The lesson for Alberta and Stephen Harper from the collapse of BC’s rich oolichan oil economy is that short sighted, blinkered thinking will lead inevitably to disaster.   One has to wonder if Alberta cares whether there will be any petroleum left seven generations or seventy generations from now for all the non-burning uses such as petrochemicals and plastics.

Unfortunately, in sacrifice to the petro-economy and the deathly hallows of the invisible hand, the oolichan may actually go extinct, rather than creating a new, viable, oil-based economy for British Columbia.


Drake, Allen and  Lyle Wilson, Eulachon  A fish to cure humanity   Vancouver, Museum Note No. 32,  UBC Museum of Anthropology

Henley, Thom   River of Mist, Journey of Dreams  Rediscovery International Foundation, 2009

Northern Gateway Joint Review filed evidence and transcripts


Personal communications from First Nations


Haisla speak to Joint Review of traditional knowledge, fears of a polluted future

Haisla chiefs appear before the Joint Review Panel
Members of the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, chiefs of the Haisla Nation and spectators watch the welcoming ceremony before the start of hearings at Kitamaat Village, Jan. 10, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Chiefs of the Haisla Nation were the first witnesses to appear before the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel  when the “community hearings” began in Kitamaat Village on Jan. 10, 2012.

The seven,  Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross, Jassee chief Samuel Robinson, chiefs Rod Bolton, Ken Hall, Clifford Smith, Marilyn Furlan and Henry Amos spoke eloquently of Haisla traditional knowledge of the region, problems in the past with environmental degradation from local industry and their fears for a future if Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. is approved.

After a welcome ceremony by the Spirit of Kitlope drummers and dancers, the first witness was Samuel Robinson, the Jassee chief of the Haisla Nation and a world renowned carver in wood, silver and gold.  Robinson was the first of many First Nations leaders, first the Haisla at the Kitamaat Village hearings and later on Jan. 12 in Terrace the Kitsumkalum to speak of the collapse of the oolichan fishery.

“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,” Robinson said.

Henry Amos voiced his distrust for the government and the Joint Review process. “This is my own personal opinion that we are, the Haisla are already at a disadvantage…. 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.”

Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross spoke about the problems with cleaning up a relatively minor diesel spill in Kitimat harbour, “I was working for a charter boat company out of Kitimat, District of Kitimat. And a tugboat down at our dock here sunk, dumping all its diesel into the water…

“Optimal conditions; the water’s calm, you’re working off the dock, you got every gear that you can think of, you can pack it down. We still couldn’t pick that diesel up. In fact, most of it got under the dock and it took a year for it to all leech out, but we spent a couple days down there trying to do what we could, basically mopping it up.

“When we were done with the absorbent pads and booms, the first thing we found out is that, actually, nobody wanted to deal with that product. Our company had an agreement with the pulp and paper mill to burn the product in their furnace, natural gas furnace, so the higher-ups agreed to it, but when we got to the door, their workers refused us. So we were stuck outside the pulp and paper mill with these bags and bags of booms and absorbent pads.

“So they came down with a condition. You guys can burn it in our furnace, but you guys have got to pack it up there yourselves.

“So covered in diesel, soaking wet, stink, and nobody wanted to come near us, we had to do it ourselves. Nobody would touch that.”

Read the Haisla testimony in their own words. Here are links to the unfiltered voices of the chiefs from the transcripts of their testimony:

NOTE: The Haisla First Nation is asking for corrections to the transcripts.  When those corrections are received, the pages will be updated.

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.


Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Marilyn Furlan

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.

Marilyn Furlan
Marilyn Furlan

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.
Thank you.

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.