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REPORTING · 10th June 2010
Walter McFarlane
A GATHERING OF NATIONS PART 7

The Solidarity Gathering of Nations at Kitamaat Village on Saturday May 29th was well underway when Art Sterrit, representing the Coastal First Nations, stepped up to the podium. He introduced himself and admitted there was not much left to be said.

“We have been at the forefront for over a decade in trying to redesign the economy of the Coast of British Columbia. We have invested in excess of $300,000,000 to that aim. We are busy out there trying to create sustainable economy. Not such an economy where someone comes up with a bunch of jobs that will last for a year or two or three and they’re gone again leaving us with the results of that. We’re trying to build a shell fish economy, we’re trying to go back to the sea,” said Sterrit.

“There are forces out there that are deciding that we are a very insignificant group of people, small in number between 15 and 25 thousand, depending on who’s counting, and we are the people that actually live in the Great Bear Rainforest. Our language comes from there, our food sources come from there, our economy comes from there,” added Sterrit.

He said they are getting down to the last few salmon and they should not be fighting over who the salmon belongs to, they have to make sure the culture of the people who live on the coast, regardless of where they come from, is preserved for generations.

“The area that we inhabit covers 25% of the remaining coastal temperate rainforest in all the world. Not just BC, not just Canada, not just North America, but of all the world. And we have an extreme responsibility that has been handed to us. The people that I work for have said they will protect it. They have accepted that responsibility to make sure that is here for generations. The threat that we have before us today is the most dire that we will ever see. Illustrated more and more every day as we observe what’s going on in the Gulf,” said Sterrit.

He said we can stop the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico from happening in British Columbia. He stated the Oil Spill in Mexico sounded the death knell for the culture of the Cajuns and the Louisiana Indians who can only maintain a vigil while accusing the US authorities of abandoning them by not putting barriers to keep the oil out of the Bayou.

He also told the story of one group of First Nations living on the coast of Louisiana. They did not get barricades simply because, as they were told by officials, there was nothing on their island worth saving. They have been offered to relocate from their home. He added the First Nations of Louisiana are tied to the water. He read a letter from one group which added a new piece to the puzzle. Large oil tankers traveling past Louisiana were also causing their coast to erode faster destroying their shellfish beaches.

“[We] encourage First Nations to take whatever action is necessary to stop the Enbridge Pipeline Project. Use whatever resources are available to you. Stop the pipeline and tanker traffic in your lands and waters. Create networks. Your culture, wildlife and economy depend on it. We wish you the best and we stand together to resist the intrusion of pipelines and tanker traffic in your territories,” read Sterrit.

“In British Columbia, we have court cases, we have a constitution and Supreme Court cases which tell us that we have title to this land. No one is going to be expropriating anytime soon for pipelines or no ones going to be expropriating our waters for tankers through them,” said Sterrit.