April 11, 2014
NAK’AZDLI, BRITISH COLUMBIA – (April 12, 2014) – Hereditary and elected leaders, elders, youth and other representatives from the First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance gathered Friday as the nations issued formal reasons for decision upholding their ban of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from their ancestral territories. The reasons were provided to Canadian federal officials during an all-day clans gathering held near Fort St. James.
The Yinka Dene Alliance is a coalition of First Nations opposed to the Enbridge pipeline whose ancestral territories comprise approximately 25 percent of the proposed pipeline route.
“Our decision to refuse consent for the Enbridge pipeline is a decision according to our own laws. It is binding and clearly set out in the Save the Fraser Declaration”, said Chief Fred Sam of the Nak’azdli First Nation. “This gathering is about our people giving the reasons for our rejection of the Enbridge pipeline, in our voices, on our lands, under our laws”. The Yinka Dene Alliance spearheaded the Save the Fraser Declaration, which bans the Enbridge pipeline from the territories of its signatories under Indigenous law, and has been signed by representatives of over 100 First Nations since 2010.
Brett Maracle, the federal official responsible for First Nations consultation on the Enbridge pipeline proposal, attended the gathering along with a team of federal officials to hear the reasons for decision. Clan members at the gathering each contributed to a gift that was presented to the federal officials for carrying the peoples’ message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet. “This gift is made according to our laws to recognize these federal officials, and ultimately Stephen Harper and Canada’s cabinet, for hearing our formal notice that under no circumstances will heavy oil pipelines go through our territories” said Hereditary Chief Tsodih, Nak’azdli.
“It’s important for the Canadian government, and the public in BC and Canada, to know that our people act according to principles and responsibilities in our own system of law and governance”, stated Chief Tsodih. “This gathering of our clans, for our leaders and elders to give reasons for the rejection of the Enbridge pipeline in an assembly according to our laws, affirms that our ban on the Enbridge pipeline isn’t a preference, it’s a determination under law.”
Many of the speakers at the gathering addressed the catastrophic effect that a spill from the Enbridge pipeline would have on their territories. “The risk of a devastating spill from the Enbridge pipeline is real. If a spill enters our waters, there is no effective way to clean it up. We will not allow our children to pay that cost for Enbridge,” said Chief Anita Williams of Takla Lake First Nation.
Click here for images from the gathering.
Tsodih (Pete Erickson)
Hereditary Chief, Nak’azdli
Chief, Takla Lake First Nation