The benefit agreement between the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs and Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines is far from a unanimous agreement within the Nation and the announcement on Friday has the Gitxsan people sharply divided.
Gitanmaax Chief Councillor Marjorie McRae said she was taken off guard on the news.
“My first reaction was definitely shock,” she said. “I didn’t know anything ahead of time.”
She said she was coming outside from a funeral in their community when she was approached by some people looking for answers.
“I feel really, really awkward. I mean I’m the elected chief of the community and I’m standing there in front of a couple of band members looking for answers.”
She said it should be imperative that the entire community would be consulted on these matters.
“At the very least they should be informing the people, allowing an opportunity for input and consultation” she said. “We are on the speakers list in January for the Enbridge hearings. The environmental assessments haven’t even been complete. To me this is extremely premature.”
A group of Gitxsan issued a counter-press release shortly after the announcement. The group, which comprise representatives of the plaintiffs to a recent Supreme Court action against the Gitxsan Treaty Society, say that they oppose the agreement.
They say, in the media release, that Elmer Derrick “does not speak for all Gitxsan.”
They said that Derrick also breached Gitxsan law by making the announcement on the day of the funeral of a matriarch elder and hereditary chief.
A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief has also come out in opposition to the announced agreement. John Ridsdale (Chief Na’Moks) said after the announcement that the Wet’suwet’en remain firm in their opposition against the project.
“Enbridge is just not going to happen,” he said. “We have said no and banned this pipeline from going through our territories – not only to protect ourselves and our lands, but also all the communities downriver from our lands. We have reviewed the project, and we have made a decision based in our traditional laws that we will not allow the devastation of an Enbridge oil spill in our lands to affect us and other communities further away who are all connected to us through the water.”
Ridsdale was in Vancouver last week participating in a joint protest against the proposed pipeline. He was a speaker at a signing event for the Save the Fraser Declaration.
The Wet’suwet’en are among the named nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance. The alliance also include the Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Takla Lake, Saik’uz nations, and their named purpose is to oppose the pipeline from their territories.
Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation spoke on behalf of the Yinka Dene Alliance and said that Enbridge has always had a strategy for offering money to First Nations and “Lots of First Nations have refused this money.”
“This is just the same old divide and conquer tactic we’ve known for centuries. It doesn’t matter who they get a deal with. The wall of First Nations saying no is unbroken. They plan to come through our territories and we’ve already said no, and we’ll use every legal means we have to stop them,” she said.