Totem carving by Daniel Yunkws
In a June 25, 2014 letter, the BC Government offered the Gitxsan First Nation up to 17.48 million dollars if the Gitxsan would allow the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project and Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project to be built across Gitxsan territories and, "acknowledge the existing consultation process through the Environmental Assessment Office and the Oil and Gas Commission, confirm support for the pipeline projects, commit not to litigate with respect to government decisions relating to the projects, and acknowledge the adequacy of consultation."
In other words, to sell out completely.
According to this article in the Vancouver Sun, John Rustad, BC Aboriginal Relations Minister was "not happy the offer had become public."
Well, Mr. Rustad, how about the public not being happy that this much taxpayer money was offered without public knowledge and consent?
One of the Gitxsan United Chiefs has responded to the government's backroom offer with the letter pasted below.
Six other Gitxsan chiefs have endorsed this letter.
Three other Gitxsan Chiefs issued another letter of response to the government on July 28, 2014.
Another Gitxsan Chief issued this letter in February 2015.
Ms. Laurel Nash
Lands Branch, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
British Columbia Government
Re: Natural Gas Pipeline Benefit Agreement
Your letter June 25 2014
Dear Ms Nash
My name as hereditary chief is Baskyalaxa, I also hold the hereditary chief name of Niist. I am responsible for all my house matters as well as the stewardship of all the territory associated with these two important names.
My English name is William Blackwater Sr. and I live in Kispiox B.C.
The Gitxsan territory comprises over 22,000 sq KM of some of the most beautiful and valuable land in the world. The Gitxsan nation is made up of approximately 8,500 people of which about half live in the local communities. The present day population enjoys the abundance of resources from the land, wildlife and rivers of this area as they have done for thousands of years.
Ms. Nash, a number of things in your letter are of concern to me and I will deal with each in a moment
However two things need to be crystal clear!
1. As a chief of a major Gitxsan house we are not interested in negotiating a treaty of any type. The days of treaty making are over!
2. No pipeline of any sort will ever cross my territory! The risk to a lifestyle that has existed for thousands of years is just too great.
The specific comments I wish to make regarding your June 25th letter follow
- Your letter indicates that you are writing to follow up to a meeting on June 18th in Hazelton. In fact no such meeting took place and according to the other Chiefs that you wrote to they also never attended such a meeting. The decisions you alluded to were not mine. You should also know that no other Chief or Society or any other organization speaks for me on matters dealing with my house or land.
- We do not support the decision to tie in the AIPs in Kitselas and Kitsumlkalum with pipe line issues. These are two completely unrelated issues and should be considered separately.
- The financial benefits offer is insulting. The comment that “ the financial component is nonnegotiable” is unacceptable. Under this offer the benefit to the Gitxsan nation is short term of about $1,400 per person and about $366 per sq km. if construction is forced we are interested in long term benefits based upon the value of the product flowing through the pipe.
- Words like nonnegotiable are hurtful. In the spirit of making progress words like consultation, debate and compromise seem more appropriate to us.
- The Province commitment to : negotiate a long term forestry agreement, negotiate a Govt to Govt agreement, etc ,etc .are meaningless to us . we have heard it all before over the last 20 years and nothing has been done.
- The specific financial component is difficult to accept. The conditions as to when pipelines are built and commissioned leaves far to much to rely on. Market demand will determine when things get done.
- The offer of a signing bonus based on date of signing is rejected. We will not be pressured into taking action based on arbitrary deadlines.
- Of course we will not commit to not to litigate with respect to Government decisions related to these two projects. Quite the opposite we will litigate if the Government makes an illegal decision.
Finally if the Province needs assurance that the Gitxsan Nation has the authority to enter into the agreement then the Province should deal with the organization that purport to hold that authority.
Ms. Nash I suspect you will find this note disturbing, however I send it with the greatest of respect.
William Blackwater Sr.
CC: Steve Munro, Deputy Minister