The Mobilization of Aboriginal Opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline
By William Walter Kay
Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will transport 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day from Alberta’s oil sands to a new Pacific Coast terminal at Kitimat, BC. This 1,177 kilometre pipeline and related facilities will cost $6.5 billion to build. The dollar value of the oil that will ultimately flow through the Northern Gateway to the insatiable Asian market is an incalculable, astronomical sum.
Governments should roll out red carpets for such obviously beneficial projects. However it is 12 years since Enbridge first floated the Northern Gateway proposal and approval has yet to be granted (this should happen in June 2014).
Northern Gateway is one of five proposed pipelines being obstructed by the international environmental movement’s attempted siege of Alberta’s oil sands. Of the many stratagems environmentalists have deployed against the Northern Gateway, one of the more effective has been the mobilization of an aboriginal opposition.
In 2012 Enbridge claimed 60% of native communities along the pipeline route had accepted the company’s offer of an equity state in the pipeline. This figure is disputed. The deals are confidential and native leaders are reluctant to publicly support the Northern Gateway.
In any event, environmentalists have fostered militant opposition to the Northern Gateway among a number of First Nation communities located both in BC’s central interior and along BC’s northern coast – areas critical to the Northern Gateway.
Environmentalists have also spread a mythology about their native supporters regarding: their population sizes, the distinctness of their cultures, the representativeness of their internal governance structures, the persistence of their traditional lifestyles, etc.
This posting seeks to dispel these myths and to expose the natives opposing the Northern Gateway to be a mercenary auxiliary devoid of popular legitimacy, i.e. lacking any “social licence” themselves.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some Basic Demographics
A Brief History of Coastal First Nations
The Nations Comprising Coastal First Nations
The Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA)
Behind the YDA's Buckskin Curtain
Green Jobs and Aboriginal Politics
Six Agents of BC's Eco-Aboriginal Parallel Government
Some Basic Demographics
1.4 million Canadians self-identify as aboriginal. One-sixth of these people (230,000) reside in British Columbia. Of these 150,000 are “First Nation”, i.e. registered status Indians. Such people make up 3.3% of BC’s overall population of 4.5 million. (There are 203 separate First Nation communities situated in BC.)
Most BC First Nations people live in urban areas, and most of those living in urban areas were born there. Greater Vancouver is home to 32,000 First Nations persons, 5,500 reside in Kamloops, 3,600 live in Kelowna, 3,300 in Victoria and so on.
In areas nearer the Northern Gateway pipeline route, the urban demographics play out as follows:
The central interior hub city of Prince George is pivotal to the Northern Gateway project. Within greater Prince George’s population of 90,000 are 6,000 First Nations people. To put this in context: One of the most vociferous opponents of the Northern Gateway, the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, represents eight First Nations in the general environs of Prince George. Their combined on-reserve population is only 2,800.
Kitimat, Northern Gateway’s terminus, has a population of 8,500 of whom 750 are First Nations. Another 600 reside on a reserve just south of town.
Up the coast, Prince Rupert has the highest rate of natives per capita of any major BC centre. Of an overall population of 12,500 about 4,300 (35%) are native.
Two points leap from these facts. Firstly, urbanites cannot be said to be living anything approaching a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Secondly, such people will not be directly impacted by any conceivable oil spill related to the Northern Gateway. Of course, both these points could be made regarding BC natives still living on reserve.
A third, and less conspicuous, point is that urban natives are often disenfranchised with regard to Band politics. This tends to leave the various First Nations communities under the control of small family compacts who do not represent the best interests of the overall membership.
A Brief History of Coastal First Nations
The Coastal First Nations (CFN) organization is one of the most media visible opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline. CFN attendance at anti-Northern Gateway gatherings is routine. CFN’s Art Sterritt is a regular speaker at such rallies where he can be counted on to deliver stern warnings about the perils of Climate Change.
This article sketches CFN’s history from its late-1990s genesis to its 2010 Declaration of opposition to the Northern Gateway.
In the late-1990s the Lannan Foundation of Santé Fe, New Mexico hired the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) to recruit an eco-auxiliary from among natives living along BC’s northern coast. Initial efforts climaxed in 2000 when DSF held the “Turning Point Conference” in Vancouver to fete aboriginal leaders from this area.
In 2002 the “Turning Point Initiative” (TPI) opened its own offices in downtown Vancouver. TPI’s aboriginal front men were Harold Leighton and Art Sterritt. TPI’s five person staff was dominated by DSF’s Les Ellis (a former Federal civil servant) and Johanna Helbig (an Oxford grad who had been with DSF for four years). TPI’s mission was to: (a) lobby governments, (b) liaise with third parties, and (c) appeal for money. Purse strings remained gripped by DSF.
After 15 months of negotiations TPI scored an agreement whereby the Federal departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Indian Affairs would jointly fund TPI’s “capacity building” and “research and planning” regarding the development of shellfish farming and eco-tourism along BC’s north coast. (DSF has long brandished small-scale shellfish farming as the economic panacea for this woefully depressed region.)
TPI then drafted elaborate Marine Use and Land Use Plans wherein “Ecosystem-Based Management” was the mantra. Also at this time, TPI formulated the eco-aboriginal (i.e. hostile) response to oil and gas proposals. Soon after, TPI (largely through Ms. Helbig’s efforts) scored $80,000 provincial grants for each TPI First Nation member. Such successes brought onto TPI’s Steering Committee heavyweights like Guujaaw (Haida President) and several lesser Chiefs.
TPI’s April 2003 Newsletter unveiled a “letter of understanding” between TPI and the BC Government concerning co-managed conservation areas. This edition of the Newsletter also reviewed two reports: one on the lucrative potential of the shellfish industry and another (from DSF, Forest Watch, and Raincoast Conservation Society) denouncing clear-cut logging. Art Sterritt insisted that only environmentally sustainable logging should be permitted. In addition, the Newsletter relayed an EKOS survey showing wrenching worries about global warming among on-reserve aboriginals.
TPI was incorporated as a non-profit society in July 2003 with a chartered purpose of forming a native alliance to promote conservation and sustainable development. Art Sterritt became Executive Director. The society, claiming to represent eight separate First Nations, began informally referring to itself as “Coastal First Nations”.
The January 2004 Newsletter gleefully announced that the Lannan Foundation had agreed to continue funding TPI for four more years. A rejoicing Wuikinuxv Chief Alex Chartrand was photographed embracing Dr. Tara Cullis (David Suzuki’s wife). The Newsletter also ran stories about: (a) a landmark forestry agreement with CFN members, (b) the Wuikinuxv’s first land-use plan, (c) the shellfish industry, and (d) a piece praising the moratorium on oil and gas drilling off BC’s coast.
The May 2004 issue of the newly renamed Coastal First Nations Newsletter was completely taken up with summarizing a report from Simon Frazer University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management: Assessing Offshore Oil and Gas Development on BC’s Coast. This report (paid for by CFN) was predictably opposed to offshore oil and gas development. The Newsletter quoted Art Sterritt:
“CFN can make a difference. We know if we want we can succeed in stopping any and all offshore gas and oil development in our traditional territories until all the necessary scientific knowledge gaps are filled.”
In 2007 CFN issued the glossy pamphlet: Groundbreaking Conservation Investment Package Goes to Coastal First Nations to herald the $120 million Conservation Investment and Incentives Initiative (CIII). CFN would receive $60 million from the Federal and Provincial governments ($30 million each) for economic development. CFN would also receive $60 million from several large American philanthropic organizations for conservation. The American funders were: Packard Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Bros Fund, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy.
CIII’s architect, Ross McMillan, was the Senior Associate for Conservation at the Tides Canada Foundation. At CIII’s launch he paid homage to the visionary role played by Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Forest Ethics.
Economic initiatives permitted under CIII are restricted to: tourism, non-timber forest products, green building, and fisheries. The agreement explicitly states that funds may NOT be used to promote: salmon farming, extraction of subsurface resources, or non-sustainable practices (conventional forestry). Private money would flow only to First Nations committed to creating “Class A” wilderness parks and who had completed Ecosystem Management Based land-use plans.
The agreement established a Coastal Conservation Endowment Fund and a Coastal Economic Development Fund. Each fund immediately disbursed $2 million to be divided among the eight First Nations to allow them to begin planning.
Coastal Opportunities Funds are co-managed by Merv Child (a native lawyer) and Scott Rehmus (a Yale-trained career environmentalist). Rehmus disburses the conservation funds.
(By 2014 the two Coastal Opportunities Funds have approved grants of $38.8 million and disbursed $32.7 million. A total of $11.3 million has gone to conservation projects. Economic development funding goes mainly to research and planning around ecotourism and the shellfish industry. Some CFN members have dipped into this fund to set up Economic Development Corporations which in turn purchase local businesses.)
CFN hit pay-dirt again in 2009 when, as part of the BC Government’s Reconciliation Protocol, $3.2 million was set aside to fund CFN members’ participation in decision-making processes. This was part of a larger Federal/Provincial package that included tens of millions of dollars for new ferry terminals and the like. There was much talk of alternative energy and carbon offsets.
Given its Big Green pedigree and its institutionalized hostility toward the petroleum industry, it came as no surprise when, on 23 March 2010, CFN broached the Northern Gateway issue with a grandiose “Declaration.”
Among its proclamations:
“…we will not bear the risk to these lands and waters caused by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and crude oil tanker traffic.
We commit to reducing our carbon footprint, and call on others we share this land with to do the same.
Therefore, in upholding our ancestral laws, rights and responsibilities, we declare that oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands will not be allowed to transit our lands and waters.”
IThe Nations comprising Coastal First Nations
The above-mentioned “Declaration” was signed by representatives from:
- Haisla Nation
- Council of the Haida Nation
- Old Massett Village
- Skidegate Village
- Heiltsuk Nation
- Gitga’at First Nation
- Kitasoo Nation
- Metlakalta Nation
- Wuikinuxv First Nation
(Nuxalk Nation did not sign this Declaration; however; they did join the above-listed nine in signing an earlier, more general eco-defence Declaration.)
To the novice, the sight of all these “Nations” might give the impression of an entity akin to NATO or the European Union, but a closer inspection of CFN members exposes something qualitatively less significant and legitimate.
The Haisla are one of the more important bands in this dispute because Enbridge needs 4 square kilometres of Haisla “traditional territory” for the Northern Gateway terminal.
Haisla Chief Ellis Ross has complained there was not enough consultation, in part because he was only given $12,000 to participate in the Joint Review Panel hearings. He asked for $500,000.
Chief Ross governs the Haisla along with ten Councillors, two of whom are surnamed Ross. They oversee numerous tiny reserves, the most important being Kitamaat Village (the site of a former post office located 11 kilometres south of Kitimat). Kitimaat Village is home to 600 Haislas and is marketed as an ecotourism attraction. Another 1,200 Haislas have relocated to nearby towns or to Vancouver.
In 2012 the Haisla received $6.5 million in Federal funds including $273,000 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
10% of the Haisla claim to speak their aboriginal language at home. Other CFN members report only 5% of their populations speaking a native language at home. These number are probably exaggerated as there is a chauvinistic impulse to claim these dead languages are alive. Despite substantial state resources expended on resurrecting aboriginal languages, BC’s coastal natives are a unilingual English-speaking cohort and have been for generations.
Prior to their appearance before the Joint Review Panel, Haida leaders published a special edition of their glossy Journal of the Haida Nation to trash the Northern Gateway proposal. This edition features photos of Haida leaders and their allies alongside personalized blurbs. Haida spiritual guru and former President, Guujaaw, decries “the heavy industrial assault on our land.” A non-native environmentalist working for a local heritage centre worries his employer’s dream of becoming an internationally recognized eco-educational retreat is being blighted by the prospect of oil tankers floating past their oceanfront vista.
For their submission to the Joint Review Panel, the Haida employed the services of aboriginal eco-activist Terry-Lynn Williams-Davidson of White Raven Law Corp. She in turn called on American hired gun Elise Decola, who demanded the pipeline be delayed until a more picayune environmental assessment could be undertaken. Terry-Lynn then treated the panel to her well-rehearsed primer in Canadian aboriginal law.
The Haida are governed through: (a) the Secretariat of the Haida Nation, (b) the Council of the Haida Nation, (c) the House of Assembly, (d) a Hereditary Chief’s Council, and (e) two Village Councils. There are 33 separate Haida clans, each with unique governance structures. There at least 20 Hereditary Chiefs, each festooned with three different names. The Haida have a President, Vice President, 14 Representatives, and 15 Councillors. All this government is for 4,500 people, the majority of whom no longer live on Haida land.
When the bombastic micro-nationalistic fog dissipates, one is left gazing upon two small villages on Graham Island (the largest island of an archipelago formerly called Queen Charlotte Islands but recently renamed Haida Gwaii).
Old Massett Village is an Indian Band representing 2,900 Haida of whom 700 live on the Old Massett Indian Reserve 2 kilometres north of the non-native Village of Massett (population 1,000.) The unincorporated non-native village of Tow Hill (population 500) is part of the same cluster of settlements, and all three villages share a water works, sewer system, and the former assets of a Canadian Forces base downsized in 1995. As ever, a provincial park lies nearby.
Massett was a European sailor. Haida migrated to this spot in the late 19th century when it was the site of a Hudson Bay Company trading depot.
Old Massett Village received $8.7 million in Federal funds in 2012 including hundreds of thousands of dollars for a salmon enhancement program.
The other village, Skidegate, represents 1,604 people of whom 731 live on reserve. Skidegate Council receives $10 million a year from the Federal Government.
The Secretariat of the Haida Nation receives Federal funding over and above what is given to Old Massett and Skidegate Councils. The most recent records available (2011) show the Secretariat receiving: $238,000 from Aboriginal Affairs, $1.4 million from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, $72,000 from Environment Canada, and $348,000 from Parks Canada.
Aside from some tourism-related businesses and a mechanized totem pole factory, there is little modern commercial activity going on here. These villages are government outposts. For their part, the Haida militantly oppose the commercial herring fishery and large-scale logging.
To further gnaw on the knuckles that nourish them, the Haida’s main governance body, the Council of the Haida Nation, is treasonously secessionist. Their Mandate and Responsibility unequivocally states:
“The Council of the Haida Nation shall strive for full independence, sovereignty and self-sufficiency of the Haida Nation.”
The Heiltsuk Nation’s 23 small reserves cover 1.4 square kilometres along the east coast of Campbell Island. There are 2,192 Heiltsuks.
In 2012 the Heiltsuk received $15.5 million in Federal funds with a cool $1 million of that coming through Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Canadian taxpayer largess amounts to about $30,000 per Heiltsuk household per year.
The main Heiltsuk polis, the unincorporated town of Bella Bella (population 1,400), is sustained by a publicly-owned ferry service, hospital, police station, school, and post office. There is also a government funded Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre.
The real Heiltsuk unemployment rate may be as high as 65%.
The Gitga’at First Nation’s 17 reserves cover 0.7 square kilometres. They lay claim to 7,500 square kilometres. Of a population 734, only 136 live on their main reserve, Hartley Bay, a remote locale situated 80 kilometres southwest of Kitimat, accessible only by boat or float plane.
The Gitga’at claim to have inhabited this territory since the “beginning of time”, and they are eager to remind that “the well-being of the people is intrinsically related to the health of their lands.”
Of the $4.7 million the Federal Government gave the Gitga’at in 2012, about $350,000 came through Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans.
Officially there is an elected Chief and four Councillors, but the Gitga’at boast a “dual governance system that is sophisticated and complex.” Decisions affecting the environment are made by unelected Hereditary Chiefs.
The Gitga’at pin their economic hopes on eco-tourism. They drafted elaborate Protocols dictating how “tourism development in Gitga’at territory must be sustainable.” Their eco-tourism efforts rely on funding and endorsements from World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and Forest Ethics (and of course, the Provincial and Federal governments).
A Marine Use Plan was prepared for Gitga’at traditional territory in 2002 in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund.
Kitasoo Nation has 516 members. 300 live on their allotted 700 hectares of reserve land. Their main centre, Klemtu, is located on the aptly named Swindle Island.
Chief Clark Robinson oversees a Council of five, two of whom are Robinsons. In 2012 the Kitasoo got a whopping $12 million from the Feds (albeit $6 million was designated “emergency response”). Fisheries and Oceans Canada kicked down $400,000.
The Kitasoo contingent of the eco-vigilante Coastal Guardian Watchmen employs a staff of four. Chief Robinson and Councillor Doug Nealoss are Guardian staffers. Guardian Watchmen are primarily financed through the Coastal Opportunity Funds but they also receive support from several environmental NGOs.
The Kitasoo made news in April 2014 by illegally preventing commercial herring vessels from entering an inlet. After a brief standoff, Fisheries and Oceans Canada arbitrarily sided with the Kitasoo.
Only 83 of the 860-member Metlakalta Nation live on their reserves (3.5 square kilometres of land scattered over a dozen locations.)
Three of six Councillors have the same last name. Chief Harold Leighton has been an environmentalist mouthpiece for decades.
The Metlakalta’s proud history of not complying with the election provisions of the Indian Act doesn’t prevent them from raking in $4 million a year in Federal funds. They receive $100,000 a year from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to “monitor marine resources.”
This “nation” started as a utopian project of an eccentric Anglican priest who, in the 1860s, marshalled sufficient resources to build an enormous church 7 kilometres west of Prince Rupert – a church he later torched.
As the main Metlakatla site is only accessible by boat, most band members live in Prince Rupert. The reserve’s economy surrounds a ferry terminal (servicing a government-supplied ferry) and a marine refueling station.
The band boasts a recycling program, stewardship office, and an eco-tourism charter service. They are looking into a sustainable shellfish enterprise.
The potentates of Wuikinuxv First Nation have decreed that the Government of Canada has no authority to determine who is, or who is not, a Wuikinuxv. They claim to have hundreds of members exerting enviro-guardianship over several thousand square kilometres of their sacred land. Their website links to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
In reality, the mighty Wuikinuxv Nation (a.k.a. the Oweekeno) consists of a 35-house village on a tiny reserve near Port Hardy. Only 57 live on reserve full-time. None of the 284 band members speak an aboriginal language. The village hosts a few struggling bed-and-breakfast operations, the six-room Techno Lodge (with Wireless Internet access), and an airstrip catering mostly to tourists.
The band receives $1.5 million a year in Federal money.
They claim to rely on wild fish for their sustenance, but the government routinely ships in groceries by boat or float plane with transportation costs alone exceeding $2 per kilo. A band-owned 16 metre seine boat sits idle due to their deep concern for the environment. They rent their fishing licences, and their substantial logging rights, to outside firms.
Nuxalk Nation claims 3,000 members but concede many of these people belong to other bands. Their registered population is 1,673, of whom 900 live on reserve. Most of the Nuxalt’s 2 square kilometres of reserve land is within the Bella Coola Reserve – the site of a former Hudson Bay Company trading post located 200 kilometres south of Kitimat.
This reserve is adjacent to the non-native towns of Bella Coola and Hagenborg (combined population 850) where a few dozen businesses cater to tourists, fishermen, loggers, and to the employees of the hospital, post office, RCMP station, and government agent’s office.
Nuxalt Chief Wally Weber and his 13 Councillors get a whopping $20 million per year ladled to them by the Federal Government.
Co-governing the band is the House of Smayusta – a fraternity of 20 Hereditary Chiefs who regularly discuss impending environmental threats. This faction controls the Nuxalt’s website wherein one finds quotes like:
“Our Sovereignty is not the Canadian government’s laws. Our Sovereignty is not the British Columbia laws. These two governments do not have any right to practise their man-made laws over our laws that were handed down to us from the Creator.”
The website’s environmental section, Take Action, imparts propaganda one might expect from a militant enviro-group. The site pledges allegiance to Tatau the Creator God, and redirects readers to the David Suzuki Foundation, Raincoast Conservation Network, WWF, etc.
Wuikinuxv Kitasoo Nuxalk Tribal Council is a non-profit society run by reps of the three member nations. Tribal Council staff spend almost a million dollars a year of Federal funds concocting never-to-be-read land-use plans.
The Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA)
The YDA was invented exclusively to fight the Northern Gateway pipeline. Its earliest press releases date to December 2010 and thus coincide with the debut of the “Save the Fraser Declaration”. This manifesto, drafted under the watchful eye of West Coast Environmental Law, came out of the “Gathering of Nations” confab at Williams Lake, BC on November 25, 2010. Public release occurred at a photo-op a week later in Vancouver.
The rhetoric in the Save the Fraser Declaration closely tracks the wording found in the CFN’s Declaration. Emphasizing a faith in an imaginary aboriginal veto power over resource projects, Save the Fraser categorically states the signatories simply will not allow the Northern Gateway pipeline to proceed.
By December 2013 some 130 First Nations from across Canada had signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, which by then was being billed as an “indigenous law”. Both the Union of BC Chiefs and the BC Metis Federation signed. However, these alliances, as with most of the signatories, represent peoples residing far from the proposed pipeline route.
Conversely, the “traditional territories” claimed by Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC), being situated between Prince George and Kitimat, span 25% of the land along the Northern Gateway route. (The Carrier people claim 76,000 square kilometres of land as traditional territory.)
The five “nations” originally making up the Yinka Dene Alliance were:
- Saikuz First Nation
- Nadleh Whuten First Nation
- Nakazdli First Nation
- Takla Lake First Nation
- Wetsuweten First Nation
Shortly after the launch of the Save the Fraser Declaration, the Tlatzen First Nation joined, and in December 2013 Stellaten First Nation signed on.
These seven First Nations are members of the eight-member Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. (The only CSTC member not in the YDA, the Burns Lake Indian Band, is in political turmoil as a result of pipeline politics.) The YDA and CSTC are the same Chiefs wearing different headdresses.
CSTC members have a total population of around 6,000 of whom 2,800 still live on reserves. The head of the Tribal Council, Chief Terry Teegee, was elected with 415 votes. Less than 10% of eligible CSTC band members voted in this election.
CSTC’s head office is in Wetsuweten First Nation territory near Burns Lake (220 kilometres west of Prince George); however, most of their business is transacted out of the Takla Building in Prince George.
Hitherto CSTC received on about $3 million a year in Federal funds including $400,000 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Confusingly, one item on the Tribal Council’s budget is for “tribal council” ($500,000), but the entire $3 million is for the CSTC to spend, who throw gobs of cash at vagaries like “tech services” and “consulting”.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is currently cutting funding to Canada’s 78 Tribal Councils. Consequently CSTC’s “tribal council” line item is being reduced from $500,000 to $350,000. Other aspects of their budget appear unaffected.
Funds received by Tribal Councils are over and above funds received by the First Nations they represent. Tribal Councils are purely political pressure groups. CSTC is so brazenly a state-funded eco-activist group one wonders why they even bothered to fabricate the YDA front.
CSTC’s fisheries department busies itself “tracking habitat quality” and “promoting First Nations concerns”. Its forestry department is similarly preoccupied. Its land-use planning department machinates against mining, oil, and gas proposals. CSTC loves the Carbon Collaborative venture whereby member bands would reap offset payments for the hard work of not harvesting trees.
From 2006 to 2009 CSTC was mentored by the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources – the bastion of Canadian aboriginal heavyweights Phil Fontaine and Roger Augustine.
Of 134 news stories archived on the CSTC website (September 2010 to March 2014), 86 were classic enviro-activist fare, i.e. disparaging mining and oil activity. This website also re-posts YDA anti-Northern Gateway press releases, which generally consist of a CSTC Chief declaring the pipeline will never be built while matter-of-factly, and falsely, declaring the land in question to be native owned.
Like Coastal First Nations, the CSTC co-produces anti-Northern Gateway advertisements for broadcast on local radio and television stations. CSTC’s main partner in these endeavours is the Sea to Sands Conservation Society – a Prince George-based environmentalist group formed in 2010 specifically to fight the Northern Gateway.
CSTC’s oil pipeline policy, and its online petroleum fact sheet, are taken verbatim from the congenitally anti-oil sands Pembina Institute. A March 2012 YDA press release extolled Our Nation, Their Interest: The Case against the Northern Gateway Pipeline and Tanker Project, a report co-written by Environmental Defence and Forest Ethics. YDA is affiliated with: Ecojustice, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Committee.
One YDA/CSTC strategy has been to pressure banks, such as BMO, into disengaging from Northern Gateway. Another strategy has been to send letters to the Chinese Government and the United Nations bemoaning the plight of aboriginals along the Northern Gateway route. Their June 2013 letter to the UN requested intervention by a Special Rapporteur.
YDA has organized protests and gatherings locally and across Canada. They got a few hundred out to a rally in Fort St. James in early 2012. A year later the YDA was represented in an “anti-tar sands” delegation to Ottawa. They also participated in protests in Washington, DC: “against tar sands and for Mother Earth.”
YDA youth leader Jasmin Thomas of Saikuz First Nation traversed Canada to drum up opposition to pipelines and to promote green energy. In 2011 she led a march on Parliament Hill alongside Naomi Klein and Gordon Pinsent.
Accompanying Jasmin is the YDA’s official spokesperson, Geraldine Thomas-Flurer (also of Saikuz First Nation). Former Saikuz Chief Jackie Thomas (she has since passed the feather to Stan Thomas) is another outspoken pipeline opponent. At a Vancouver rally in December 2011 Chief Jackie declared:
“First Nations from every corner of BC are saying absolutely no tar sands pipelines or tankers in our territories. We have banned oil pipelines and tankers using our laws, and we will defend our decision using all the means at our disposal.”
(At the same rally another Chief lectured the assembled on paleoclimatology.)
Such imperious proclamations are typical of the YDA. A June 2013 press release banished Enbridge from YDA territory. This occurred after Enbridge notified the Nakazdli First Nation of Enbridge’s intention to do preparatory work on land the Nakazdli deem traditional territory.
On December 19, 2013, following the Joint Review Panel’s (JRP) approval of Northern Gateway, a YDA press release dismissed the JRP, adding:
“The Yinka Dene Alliance has clearly refused permission for Enbridge’s pipeline to cut through our lands and waters and the federal and provincial governments must accept that the project cannot go ahead…
We have drawn a line in the earth and they (Enbridge) cannot and will not cross.”
Behind the YDA's Buckskin Curtain
As is apparent from the previous article, the ruling circles of Saikuz First Nation play lead roles in the YDA. (YDA’s mailing address is: “c/o Saikuz First Nation, Vanderhoof, BC.”)
Saikuz First Nation claims a vast traditional territory including all land in and around the non-native towns of Vanderhoof, Enger, and Fenmore. In reality, the Saikuz semi-control ten reserves covering 3 square kilometres. The Saikuz boast a population “over 1,000 strong”. In reality, their current numbers are 947, and over half of them strayed from the reservation long ago.
The entire Saikuz Nation, on and off reserve, consists of 200 households.
The Federal Government gives the Saikuz $3 million per year. Average Saikuz household income is around $17,000. Ergo, the Federal Government is the source of about 90% of the money circulating in the Saikuz economy.
Despite the Band owning its own forest products company, the official unemployment rate is 46%. An estimated 145 Saikuz have jobs.
YDA poster boy Chief Martin Louie leads the Nadleh Whuten First Nation - a nation born in 1990 when the Fraser Lake Indian Band split into the Nadleh Whuten and Stellaten First Nations, thereby entitling each Band to its own government-paid Chief, Council, and officials. The Nadleh Whuten currently have 532 members of whom 261 live on six small reserves (less than 1 square kilometre in total) near Vanderhoof.
(Vanderhoof is a 4,500-person non-native town supported by forestry and agriculture and located 96 kilometres west of Prince George.)
The Nadleh Whuten received $2.6 million from the Federal Government in 2012. Their official unemployment rate, always an underestimation, is 33%. About 80 Nadlehs have jobs.
The Nadleh Whuten website is freighted with pronouncements about respecting the environment and being good stewards of the land. The website’s “news” section contains mostly eco-propaganda such as its March 21, 2013 posting: “First Nations vow to stop pipeline ‘one way or another’,” wherein dear leader, Chief Louie, informs: “pipelines are not safe for the environment and there is no room to negotiate with the government.”
Nadleh Whuten High School offers three classes titled “English/First Peoples”, two classes in “First Nations Studies”, two in “Sustainable Resources”, and one in “Earth Science”.
Nadleh’s twin, Stellaten First Nation, has two reserves spanning less than 1 square kilometre near Fraser Lake (157 kilometres west of Prince George). The Nation has 518 members of whom 265 live on reserve. Like the Nadlehs, an estimated 80 Stellatens are employed.
Stellaten First Nation receives $2 million a year from Ottawa.
Chief Archie Patrick oversees a two-member Council and a staff of eight. Land-use planning and environment programs are top priorities.
Despite a native language revival program (including Band-funded native language immersion feasts), only 8% of Stellatens claim to speak their aboriginal language at home. This is par for natives in this area. Pretenses aside, as with Coastal First Nation communities, we are dealing with unilingual English-speaking people.
As the Nakazdli First Nation is not forthcoming with vital statistics, it is unclear how many of their 1,650 members live on their tiny Fort St. James-area reserves.
Chief Fred Sam works with eight Councillors of whom three are surnamed Sam including Anne Marie Sam, a prominent anti-Northern Gateway activist who recently landed a speaking trip to Geneva. The Band office has 41 employees – six named Sam. Life on the res revolves around the Band office, a gas station, a church, a gym, and a small sawmill.
The Nakazdli website proclaims:
“We have been here since the Creator made us responsible for this land. We have always been here and we will always be here. Our people are here to care for our land and water.”
Their website showcases a Stewardship Policy long on enviro-rhetoric but containing this gem:
“Nakazdli is currently funded only to participate in the management of the reserve lands…”
Bemoaning the inequities of this geographic restriction (which applies to all Bands), the Stewardship Policy nevertheless sets out a fee schedule for resource companies wishing to enter its vast, ill-defined traditional territory: $250 for opening a file, $300 for a heritage investigation permit, and $50 to $100 per hour to employ a Nakazdli Resource Technician.
Takla First Nation’s 17 reserves cover a mere 600 hectares. Fewer than 400 of their 741 members live on reserve land, mostly at Takla Landing – a gold rush era steamboat port 350 kilometres north of Prince George. This reserve has a school, Band office, health centre, retail store, gas station, and a motel.
To manage national affairs Chief Anita Williams received $4.4 million from the Federal Government in 2012. Her Council maintain a separate office in Prince George that doubles as HQ for the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
The Takla Vision Statement declares:
“We, the Takla Lake Nation, will work together toward creating a sustainable healthy and prosperous community that is grounded in our cultural heritage and respectful of our traditional lands.”
Takla traditional lands span 27,250 square kilometres.
Tlatzen Nation has 50 tiny reserves (many less than one hectare) near Fort St. James. Their current population is 1,724 with about 545 living on reserve. Tachie, their largest settlement, and the site of an RCMP detachment, is home to 409.
The official unemployment rate is 39%. The labour market participation rate is 31%. About 130 Tlatzens have jobs.
In 2011 the Band received $11 million from the Feds including $198,000 and $121,000 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada respectively. In 2006 the average income of a Tlatzen with income was $14,000. Again, this indicates that virtually all cash flowing through the Tlatzen economy originates from the Federal Government.
As do many First Nations, the Tlatzen claim to possess a mystical “Traditional Ecological Knowledge”. They further boast of having worked toward environmental sustainability since 1959.
Wetsuweten First Nation Chief Karen Ogden is a media darling when the Northern Gateway (which she opposes) is the topic of the day, but she is a pariah when the Pacific Trails pipeline (which she supports) is being discussed.
Nowhere in their regal treatment of Chief Ogden do the CBC or VancouverSun mention that her subjects number only 140. (An alternative figure of 240 has been used by the Chief. AANDC provides no population data on this band.)
Part of the annual $1.2 million granted Chief Ogden by the Federal Government goes toward maintaining a website devoted to demanding more “consultation” from resource companies.
Wetsuweten First Nation dates to the 1984 breakup of the Omineca Band. The name was controversial as several other bands claim to be Wetsuweten such as Hagwilget Village (on-reserve population 200) and Moricetown (on-reserve population 661). Even more controversial among the Wetsuwetens are the Burns Lake Indian Band and the most intriguing Office of the Wetsuweten.
Burns Lake Indian Band (located next to the municipality of Burns Lake) has a population of 128. Twenty-five members have jobs. The Feds pump over $1 million a year into the Band.
(Situated at a critical spot along the Northern Gateway route, the 2,000-citizen municipality of Burns Lake has three reserves in town and three more nearby. Burns Lake is the only locale in BC where whites and natives co-exist in equal numbers.)
Former Chief Albert Gerow made no secret of his pro-pipeline views. His opponents, although they espoused a number of pretexts, were militant pipeline opponents. In 2013 they occupied the Band office building from March 24 until April 8 when they were evicted by a large contingent of RCMP officers.
Undeterred, in May 2013 Gerow sent a letter to the BC Ministry of Forests endorsing a proposal by Enbridge to engage in preparatory work in a nearby woods. This prompted a spate of allegations against Gerow and his allies who responded with defamation lawsuits. Eventually, Gerow threw in the towel and left the reserve to take employment with Trans Canada. Acting Chief Wesley Sam will hold office until the outcome of a hotly contested October 2014 election.
During this orchestrated regime change, the Georgia Straight repeatedly called Gerow the “pipeline chief”. At one point their designated reporter added “at least 90% of members living on reserve reject the pipeline.” Nowhere in this piece, nor in any other media report, was it mentioned that a mere 44 people live on this reserve.
A similar kerfuffle broke out in December 2011 after a Gitxsan Hereditary Chief announced an agreement with Enbridge regarding Northern Gateway. Gitxsan Treaty Offices in Hazelton were immediately blockaded by groups representing other Hereditary Chiefs. (One CBC news report mentioned that “dozens” of Gitxsans hold the mantle “Hereditary Chief”.) The blockade lasted for six months because the RCMP ignored a court order demanding the protesters be removed. The blockade ended when AANDC and the Gitxsan Treaty Office agreed to a financial audit of the Treaty Office. (An entirely separate issue regarding financial irregularities emerged during the standoff.)
The Gitxsan Treaty Office and the Gitxsan Government Commission (a.k.a. the Gitxsan Local Services Society – an AANDC-recognised Tribal Council) share offices. The four First Nations represented by this Tribal Council have a combined population of 2,200 most of whom live in or around Hazelton, which is far to the north of the Northern Gateway route – but then the Gitxsan claim 33,000 square kilometres as traditional territory.
The Smithers-based Office of the Wetsuweten is neither a First Nation nor a Tribal Council. It is a state-funded environmentalist non-profit society with a staff of 19 and a governance structure loosely based around five unelected Hereditary Chiefs. The Office issued a lengthy diatribe detailing the reasons behind its opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The “Wetsuweten Treaty Office Society” (a.k.a. Office of the Wetsuweten) was ostensibly concocted to aid various bands in treaty negotiations. Towards these ends Ottawa has loaned $13 million to this non-profit society since the 1990s. The BC Treaty Commission also makes grants to this society. In 2012 the Office also received funds from AANDC ($200,000) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada ($451,000) for environmental work. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency recently kicked down $11,416, as well.
Taxpayer largesse is supplemented by payments from environmental groups. In the last few years the society received a dozen cheques in the $5,000-to-$60,000 range from: Tides Canada, Forest Ethics, Pembina Institute, Skeena Wild, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation et al.
Office of the Wetsuweten expenses consist mainly of: consultant fees, honoraria for the Hereditary Chiefs, and wages for the staff.
This staff consists of 12 office workers (11 female, 1 male) all of whom are aboriginal except for one conspicuous M.A. graduate from the uber-green Royal Roads University. In addition to some anti-poverty work, the office staff mainly supports seven professional eco-activists (all male) who are a mix of natives and non-natives. Key among the non-natives is their geography coordinator, François Depuy, who spent much of his career with Parks Canada.
The Hereditary Chiefs on the society’s board are environmentally focused. One Chief’s posted blurb consists entirely of this statement:
“We need to clean up our environment and ecosystems by ending the use of herbicides and pesticides.”
Most intriguing is the Office’s relationship to the Unistoten Action Camp - an illegal blockade along the route of the Pacific Trails pipeline (an approved pipeline designed to transport gas from BC’s interior to a liquefaction plant in Kitimat).
In May 2009 the Office held a conference for their Big Frog Clan where Office heavyweights David Dewit, François Depuy, and John Ridsdale lectured the few dozen attendees on environmental issues. The Report on this conference contains a cryptic reference to the three “houses” of the Big Frog Clan, one being the “Unistoten” (a.k.a. Dark House). A key conference resolution was: “No to all pipelines.”
The Unistoten held their first activist training camp in July 2010. Now a permanent “pit house” serves as the focal point that annual summer gatherings attract a few hundred eco-anarchists and native sovereigntists from across North America.
The official reps of the Action Camp are Freda Huson, who claims to be authorized by the Unistoten Hereditary Chief, and Freda’s husband, Werner Naziel, who purports to be a Hereditary Chief of the Fireweed Clan. This does not seem to be the same Fireweed Clan listed on the Office of the Wetsuweten website. (AANDC says nothing about “Unistotens” or “Fireweeds.”)
In any event, according to Werner his group split from the Office of the Wetsuweten a few years ago. Confirming this, a letter dated February 26, 2013 from the Office disassociates itself from the Unistoten (Dark Horse) camp while adding:
“… the Unistoten are well within their rights and jurisdiction to occupy and protest their lands as they see fit.”
The most likely scenario is that the Office of the Wetsuweten concocted and tacitly supports the Unistoten Action Camp but for legal and financial reasons prefers this relationship to remain plausibly deniable.
The Unistoten Action Camp is woven into environmentalism’s extremist flank (Forest Action Network, Deep Green Resistance, Rising Tide et al). The rhetoric coming out of Huson and Naziel corresponds to the ultra-green milieu. Naziel is especially vexed about ocean acidification.
Green Jobs and Aboriginal Politics
To understand the pervasiveness and strength of the commitment to environmentalist ideology found in certain native bands, one needs to juxtapose two socio-economic facts:
(a) The chronic and unconscionably high rates of Aboriginal unemployment, and
(b) The unusually large numbers of Aboriginals employed by public or private sector environmental movement organizations.
First to the unemployment rates. The total population, on and off reserve, of the 18 First Nations fronting the opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline (i.e. CFN members, YDA members, plus the Nuxalk and Gitxaala First Nations) is about 23,000.
These nations’ official unemployment rates are in the 30% to 40% range. Native politicians complain that real unemployment rates are much higher. Art Sterritt has claimed CFN members suffer 90% unemployment. In ballpark terms, less than a third of these natives participate in the labour force, and less than two thirds of those who do participate actually have jobs. In other words, out of a population of 23,000 about 4,000 are employed.
Most employment opportunities for natives come directly or indirectly from the public sector, mainly from Federal Government initiatives. Natives are painfully aware of this. The Nuxalk website bemoans:
“For many Nuxalk people, working for the Canadian government is one of the only sources of employment available to them in the Bella Coola Valley.”
The problem, as far as pipeline advocates are concerned, is that much of the government-generated employment is channelled through agencies devoted to advancing the green agenda.
For instance, AANDC runs a Climate Change Adaptation Program for natives. This bureaucratic busy-work initiative employs “key leaders” within select communities to strategize about global warming and to undertake vulnerability assessments. Between 2008 and 2011 this program completed 90 projects in 80 communities. Among the 2014 grant winners were Takla Lake First Nation ($131,700) and Gitga’at First Nation ($77,790).
AANDC also manages the Aboriginal component of Ottawa’s ecoEnergy operations. This mainly consists of conducting green energy feasibility studies – shovels rarely splice the earth. The latest batch of grants include $60,000 to the Council of the Haida Nation to think about a bio-mass proposal and $100,000 to the Gitga’at First Nation to contemplate the feasibility of a micro-hydro generator.
In addition, AANDC undertakes environmental review processes, in close and remunerated cooperation with native leaders, regarding development projects on reserve land.
For development proposals not on reserve land, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency pays Aboriginal groups to participate in environmental assessments. In 2012-2013 the Agency handed out 90 cheques to Aboriginals totalling $1.6 million.
ECO Canada runs BEAHR (Building Environmental Aboriginal Human Resources) Training Programs to train environmental monitors and activists from among the Aboriginal population, all with an expressed aim of “helping Aboriginals develop meaningful environmental careers.”
Environment Canada’s Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk dishes out between $2 and $3 million a year, often in single-employee grants, to Aboriginal groups in order to assist them in capacity building towards enhanced habitat protection.
Parks Canada maintains an Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat to facilitate its relations with 300 Aboriginal communities. Most Federal parkland is formally or informally co-managed with Aboriginal groups, and Parks Canada is now “employer of choice” for Aboriginals (400 are on its payrolls). A prime example is the 1,479 square kilometre Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, which is co-managed by Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation. Numerous Haidas work for Parks Canada on this park’s operations, and Parks Canada shunts an additional $100,000 a year to seasonally employ “Haida Gwaii Watchmen” (not to be mistaken for the Coastal Guardian Watchmen).
Similar things happen at provincial parks. In 2003 Heiltsuk First Nation signed a co-management agreement with BC Parks regarding the new 123 square kilometre Hakai Luxvballis Conservation Area. The 1,000 square kilometre Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy is co-managed by the Kitasoo First Nation and BC Parks. (This latter park was created in 2006 after 18 years of tireless agitation by an international network of environmental NGOs, led by Valhalla Wilderness Society, who produced 12 scientific reports and 20 documentaries in furtherance of their goal.)
Most relevant among public sector enviro-programs are the two bankrolled by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FOC). One FOC program, Aboriginal Aquatic Resources and Oceans Management Program: “helps Aboriginal groups to participate effectively in advisory and decision-making processes...” This translates into: training and supervising Aboriginal Fish Guardians, supporting ecosystem-based management efforts, consultation and capacity building, and deploying traditional Aboriginal knowledge towards enhanced environmental stewardship.
A second FOC program, Aboriginal Fish Strategy, is partly focused on managing the natives’ non-commercial fishery (subsistence and ceremonial fishing) but also directs funds towards: preserving habitat, protecting species at risk, and enhancing the enforcement capabilities of the Aboriginal Fish Guardians.
These two FOC programs have a combined annual budget of $41.1 million. Over $5 million per year of this goes to the 18 above-mentioned First Nations.
Universities also play a role. Natives are often employed to assist in academic environmental studies. One mega-study, undertaken by a coterie of professors, bureaucrats and environmentalists known as the “Coastal Information Team”, concluded in 2004 but follow-ups are ongoing.
The University of Victoria is deeply involved the Spirit Bear Research Foundation. This initiative has a twofold mission: (a) conserving bear habitat on BC’s coast, and (b) guiding the Kitasoo First Nation along the path of sustainable Aboriginal tourism. (Spirit Bear is funded by the Tula Foundation and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.)
Environmentalism’s industry of choice, wilderness tourism, is heavily subsidized and with noticeable results. According to the government-funded Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC, the province’s 60 Aboriginal tourism businesses have combined annual revenues of $40 million and 4,000 full-time and part-time employees.
Still more green employment arrives through the Band Councils themselves. Each Council boasts of its environmental monitors, recycling depots, stewardship offices and/or land-use planning departments, etc.
Private sector environmental organizations are seriously involved in building constituency within native communities. The Coastal Opportunity Funds spend over $4 million a year just in CFN member communities, and a third of this money comes directly from Big Green US philanthropists. Judging from the documents of the CFN, YDA, and Office of the Wetsuweten et al, there are probably three dozen environmentalist NGOs currently pouring resources into the 18 above-mentioned First Nations.
Thus, there may be as many as several hundred green jobs within the economies of the 18 First Nations in question. Remember, they have only 4,000 employed persons in total. This means environmentalism is the main employer in these communities, and consequently environmentalism is the most robust political force.
Six Agents of BC's Eco-Aboriginal Parallel Government
Being magnificently endowed with natural resources, BC should boom and bloom; however, this is hardly the best-case scenario as envisioned by the international environmental movement.
70% of BC’s landmass is not governed by any treaty between aboriginals and Ottawa. Environmentalists exploit the subsequent uncertainty regarding land title to further their agenda of thwarting resource development. This strategy requires embedding hundreds of eco-aboriginal agents into BC’s policy formulating community.
This article profiles a sampling of six members of BC’s eco-aboriginal parallel government.
For several years Kelly Brown was lead claims negotiator for the Heiltsuk Tribal Council. His efforts to keep Ecosystem Based Management on the agenda during negotiations won him a 2002 Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership and a $25,000 cheque from Ecotrust.
Currently Brown’s Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Plan team seeks to impose Ecosystem Based Management across Heiltsuk traditional territory. (Half this territory is already parkland.) Much of his team’s work involves “facilitating dialogue with other technical staff among the nine coastal first nations” (i.e. doing lunch).
Brown enthralled the Joint Review Panel with an unveiling of his grandiose 15-year economic plan.
Brown’s wilderness retreat for Heiltsuk youth give the kids a much needed respite from the concrete labyrinth of Bella Bella.
Charles Menzies is a member of the Gitxaala First Nation and a professor of Social Anthropology at UBC where he coordinates the Ecological Anthropology Unit (a.k.a. Forests and Oceans Forever). In addition, Menzies is a partner in Gitxaala Environmental Monitoring – seemingly both an agency of, and consultant to, Gitxaala First Nation specializing in environmental assessment processes.
While the Gitxaala are neither YDA nor CFN members, they are anti-Northern Gateway campaigners. Chief Clarence Innes, on behalf of his five-member Council (two surnamed Innes), insists the Gitxaala were not adequately consulted by the Joint Review Panel (JRP) despite being allowed to make 27 oral submissions and to present 7,500 pages of material. Recently the Gitxaala joined the Gitga’at, the Haisla, and a few enviro-groups in launching a legal challenge to the JRP’s approval of the Northern Gateway.
(Gitxaala First Nation has a population 1,916 of whom 421 live on reserve. They receive $6 million a year from the Feds. Their unofficial unemployment rate is variously estimated to be between 60% and 90%.)
Outspoken Northern Gateway opponent John Ridsdale has garnered interviews with the mass media and frequently appears as a keynote speaker at protest gatherings. He is a devout environmentalist and committed native sovereigntist.
John lives on Hagwilget Reserve but commutes to Smithers where he heads the Natural Resources Department for the Office of the Wetsuweten. His job is to coordinate the Wetsuweten response to resource development proposals. He also sits on the Office’s Executive Committee.
John’s alter ego, “Chief Namoks”, is a Hereditary Chief of the Tsa K’ex Yex house of the Tsayu clan. (Mike Ridsdale, a fellow Tsayu clansmen, is the Office’s Environmental Assessment Coordinator.) It is as “Chief Namoks” that John is identified in the media and introduced on stage where he usually appears decked out in a red and black blanket/cape affair topped up with an elongated fez-style hat accessorized with an array of white pipe cleaners.
Of course, John is not the elected Chief of anybody; moreover, the process whereby one is anointed a Wetsuweten Hereditary Chief remains a gnostic mystery. There may be as many as 50 Wetsuweten Chiefs strutting about the outback around Smithers lording over a Wetsuweten populace that cannot exceed 3,000 people.
Chief Namoks was an honoured guest aboard the Yinka Dene Alliance’s “Freedom Train” as it rolled across Canada, slandering the Northern Gateway at every whistle-stop. The Chief’s trip may have been paid for by the YDA or by the CSTC or by his employer; either way, Canadian taxpayers picked up the tab.
Think of John as a rogue civil servant.
Megan Moody’s mom was a non-native nurse stationed in Bella Coola. Judging from Megan’s photographs, her father was probably not full-blood native. Nevertheless, he was both a hereditary and an elected Chief of the Nuxalk Nation. Megan has leveraged her Nuxalk heritage to the max despite having left Bella Coola with her mother when Megan was a young child.
A decade ago Megan got a Master’s Degree from UBC’s Environmental Studies department. Her thesis explored the causes of an alleged decline in eulachon stocks along BC’s coast. Her unique analysis combined “Fuzzy Logic” with Traditional Ecological Knowledge – the latter consisting of the reminiscences of Bella Coola elders. Megan’s expedient conclusion was that eulachon populations were declining due to non-native commercial fishing operations and man-made global warming.
After getting her Master’s, Megan finagled a job as the Nuxalk Nation’s Fisheries Manager – a newly minted contract position contingent on funding from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
From there Megan secured employment as an enviro-scientist with the Central Coastal Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA) – an eco-aboriginal non-profit society with six employees and managed by a clique of Chiefs and Councillors who maintain a stony silence regarding finances.
Megan jumped ship from CCIRA to the Nuxalk contingent of the Guardian Watchmen. The Watchmen are seaborne eco-vigilantes with 30 employees and a fleet of about a dozen small vessels. They seem to be a subsidiary of Coastal First Nations but are jointly funded by several public and private sources. Megan’s new job title is: Stewardship Director.
A pattern emerges.
Miles Richardson was President of the Haida Nation from 1984 to 1996 and head of the BC Treaty Commission from 1998 to 2001. He currently sits on several boards while managing a consulting firm specializing in: First Nation governance, native-private sector relations, and sustainability policies. Miles was a founding member of the David Suzuki Foundation, taking his seat on DSF’s Board in 1992.
With 80 employees and annual revenues of $9 million, DSF is among the largest and most influential of BC-based environmental groups. DSF opposed the Northern Gateway from the get-go and recently joined a consortium of enviro-organizations in suing the Federal Government to stop its construction.
Miles, now approaching his 23rd year on the DSF Board, also adorns its Program Committee.
Judging from his recent comments, it appears Miles supports development in BC as long as it is native-owned.
Living Oceans Society is a mainstream but militant BC-based ten-employee environmental non-profit remarkably successful in attracting media attention. Living Oceans uncompromisingly demands a permanent ban on all oil tanker traffic off BC’s coast.
What Living Oceans’ Board of Directors lack in numbers (there are only three) they make up for in gravitas. Board President Astrid Scholz also presides over the 54-employee Ecotrust organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon. At her right hand sits Kory Wilson.
Kory’s father, mother, and sister are each BC native Chiefs. Her father, Bill Wilson, a Hereditary Chief from Kwakgewlth First Nation, became a legend in Canadian aboriginal politics after holding executive positions in several national and provincial native organizations, often concurrently. Kory’s mother is the elected Chief of Xat’sull First Nation. Kory’s sister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, is “Chief Puglass” – the BC Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. Jody is also an elected Band Councillor. All four Wilsons have law degrees from UBC.
Before going to UBC, Kory attended the elite, private, and very green Pearson College, thus explaining her membership in the Mountbatten United World Colleges Alumni.
After graduating, Kory became Coordinator of the Aboriginal Studies Programs at Langara College where she taught Native Studies. Now she is Director of Aboriginal Education and Community Engagement at Vancouver Community College, a position allowing her to steer the career paths of many aboriginal students. Regarding Kory’s current gig, Living Ocean Society says the following:
“She has adopted a learner-and-community focused curriculum and aboriginal forms of governance for the groundbreaking Coastal Corridor Consortium that extends the College’s outreach with coastal First Nations communities.”
Kory participates in five aboriginal activist groups including the Aboriginal Sustainability Network.
The “Indians” aren’t the bad guys here, the environmentalists are. The battle lines aren’t between natives and non-natives but between environmentalists and those wanting industry to move forward. Both sides of this struggle are commanded by non-natives and both sides recruit native auxiliaries. North America is haunted by intra-European wars where natives were marshalled to one side or another, often with disastrous consequences for those on the losing side.
Environmentalists dream of separating Canadians from their hinterland so that our abundant resources cannot be harvested. By reconstituting aboriginal elites into neo-aristocratic overseers of the commons, environmentalists hope to fragment Canada and occlude land access to such an extent that commercial resource exploitation becomes well-nigh impossible. This aboriginal supremacist game plan is inherently racist and anti-democratic. Canadians should not fancy themselves unique objects of desire; the same aboriginal supremacist blueprint is being deployed in Australia, Brazil, the USA, and elsewhere.
During heated moments of the Northern Gateway debate, senior members of the Harper government denounced deep-pocketed foreigners for bankrolling opposition to the pipeline. These comments came like a fresh breeze because the leading roles played by European and Yankee oligarchs inside the environmental movement remains a taboo subject.
Nevertheless, the Harperites seem unaware that environmentalism has long been a semi-institutionalized movement drawing most of its money and authority from the state. Harper’s government is contributing more to the Canadian contingent of the environmental movement than are any clique of foreign plutocrats.
That said, the Harper Conservatives remain our sole brake against a terminal slide into the Green Hell held in store for us by the Liberals and NDP.
The best information sources about Canadian aboriginals are Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Statistics Canada. This posting also drew from BC’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation. Their websites are:
Another information source was the websites of the various First Nations communities and other native associations profiled within this posting:
The websites of the political organizations at the centre of native opposition to the Northern Gateway are:
A few hundred media reports and articles were read in preparation for this posting (hat tip to Google Alerts), some of the more valuable being:
Reuters, December 18, 2013, Timeline Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal
Financial Post, February 1, 2014, Haisla First Nation says approval of Northern Gateway pipeline will be illegal
Georgia Straight, April 7, 2014, Wetsuweten People Disagree about Pacific Trails Pipeline Project
Georgia Straight, December 11, 2013, Burns Lake Chief Albert Gerow will leave office at end of year (best accessed at warriorpublications.wordpress.com where a cache of related stories can be found)
CBC News, June 11, 2012, 6-month occupation of Gitxsan treaty offices ends peacefully (this article links to three more related articles)
If you wish more information about any fact contained within this posting, please ask the author using the “Contact” button on the main page.