Haisla voices at the Joint Review: Rod Bolton

This story presents the unfiltered voices of Haisla chiefs when they testified at the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review hearings on January 10, 2011, at Kitamaat Village, based on the official transcript.  There have been minor edits for clarity.


Rod Bolton
Rod Bolton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haisla voices at the Joint Review Panel: Samuel Robinson

This story presents the unfiltered voices of Haisla chiefs when they testified at the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review hearings on January 10, 2011, at Kitamaat Village, based on the official transcript.  There have been minor edits for clarity.


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

Samuel Robinson
Samuel Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thank you for your kind attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links: January 9, 2011

Environmental groups re-issue poll, showing BC worried about US, Chinese control of natural resources

A coalition of BC  environmental groups have re-released a poll from last spring showing that almost 75 per cent of British Columbians are worried about foreign investment in Canadian natural resources. The poll also shows that only a small minority of British Columbians (15%) are concerned about charitable funding provided by US philanthropic foundations to Canadian environmental groups.

The poll was conducted by Strategic Communications in April 2011 and commissioned by the following groups: BC Sustainable Energy Association; Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC Chapter; Conservation Northwest; Dogwood Initiative; Ecojustice; ForestEthics; Georgia Strait Alliance; Greenpeace; Pembina Institute; Sierra Club BC; West Coast Environmental Law; Wildsight.

The re-release of this poll is aimed at countering a poll last week, commissioned by Enbridge showing wide spread support in BC for the pipeline and an attack ad campaign by the pro-bitumen sands group Ethical Oil, which has been saying that there is too much foreign interference in the Canadian energy regulatory process.

Based on a random online sample of 830 adult British Columbians, the results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.4 percent 19 times out of 20.

This poll shows that 47.1% of respondents were very worried and 32.1% somewhat worried about “Americans controlling our natural resources.” Asking if people were worried about China, 39.0 % were very worried and 33.8% were somewhat worried about “China investing in our natural resources.” It shows that 38.3% were “very worried” and 34.2% “somewhat worried” about “China taking or controlling our natural resources.”

The news release from the groups says

“These poll results suggest that the oil lobby’s attacks against environmental groups are out of touch with the true values of British Columbians. The real issue is the unacceptable risk of a foreign-funded pipeline-oil tanker project that would ram pipe through unceded First Nations lands to ship some of the world’s dirtiest oil across thousands of fragile salmon-bearing rivers and streams,” said Will Horter, Executive Director of the Dogwood Initiative. “225 Supertankers a year, many larger than the Exxon Valdez, would need to transit the treacherous fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest, on route to China. This pipeline is all risk and no reward for British Columbians.”

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), over the three-year period from 2007-2010 alone, foreign companies poured nearly $20 billion dollars into the tar sands. In contrast, according to blogger Vivian Krause, US charitable foundations have given Canadian environmental groups less than 1.5% of that amount over a ten year period, accounting for all charitable funding on Canadian environmental issues ranging from forest protection to fisheries conservation.

“Funding for environmental charities helps to right the imbalance between ordinary citizens and the financial and political influence of multinational companies in Canada,” said Jessica Clogg of West Coast Environmental Law. “Since 1974, our environmental legal aid services have enabled citizens and community groups throughout BC to participate in resource decisions – like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline – that would profoundly affect their lives.”

“Canadians value the importance of environmental advocates speaking up for economic development that sustains our communities without destroying the ecology that supports us,” said Sierra Club BC Executive Director George Heyman. “We represent a legitimate Canadian viewpoint that is critical to sound policy-making, particularly when facing the influential, China-backed Enbridge pipeline lobby.”

As with many polls in a polarized situation, there are problems.  As Northwest Coast Energy News showed last week, the numbers in the Enbridge-sponsored poll are unreliable for northern British Columbia.  The environmental groups’ poll could also be considered suspect by the way the questions were phrased and the order in which they were asked.

Foreign Funding Poll Backgrounder  (Data figures from the groups who commissioned the poll)


Five energy companies reveal backing for Northern Gateway pipeline

Five major energy companies have filed documents with the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel saying they are backing the pipeline project in one way or another

Cenovus Energy Inc., which runs the condensate operation at the old Methanex site in Kitimat and MEG are funding participants, that is they are investing in the pipeline.

MEG and Cenovus have also signed a precedent agreement, meaning that the company will transport diluted bitumen along the pipeline. Other companies signing the precedent agreement are Suncor Energy, Nexen Inc., and Total E&P Canada.

The Chinese state oil company Sinopec announced earlier it was one of the pipeline funding participants.

In October, Enbreige spokesman Paul Stanway said that ten companies have contributed $10 million each to help Enbridge finance the regulatory approval process, meaning that four backers remain to be revealed.

This is likely to happen before the hearings open at the Haisla Recreation Centre, at Kitamaat Village, on Tuesday January 10.