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REPORTING · 3rd December 2011
Merv Ritchie
One week ago, on Friday, November 25, 2011, the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) took the extraordinary step of unanimously supporting a single project for the Provincial Governments “Community Recreational Grant Program”. They had more applicants and could have even listed their choices in order of preference, but they were steadfast and determined. The Gitxsan Nation had worked so hard, united and together for this one dream, the new Sports Arena to replace the crumbling Ken Trombley Memorial Arena in Hazelton, they decided they would risk everything to show their support for the Gitxsan people and their demonstration of unity by offering the Province no other alternatives.

Elmer Derrick may have just flushed that new found hope and dream of a unified people down the toilet. Just what did Enbridge promise him? He claims one fortieth of ten percent. That made one media spokesperson openly chuckle.

Three and a half years ago Derrick did essentially the same thing. He heads up the Gitxsan Treaty Office (GTO) and the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS). Without consulting the Gitxsan people he held a media conference and announced to the world a new Gitxsan Governance Structure. The Gitxsan people heard about it first through the media just like today they are hearing they suddenly support Enbridge on the nightly news.

Even Derrick fumbled badly when asked who he speaks for and where he gets his authority he had the following answers to these questions;

Are the Band Councils on Board with this decision?
I don’t know […] I haven’t solicited any opinions from the Band Councils

Can you legitimately speak for all the people?
Our title holdings (referring to being a Hereditary Chief) have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But you didn’t confer with any of those elected officials?
Well we send out information and talk to ah, we’ve been talking to as many people as possible in the past six years.

Who was actively participating in reaching this agreement with Enbridge, just you?
No input from Band Councils but we have a staff

Was it ultimately your decision then?
Not necessarily, I just do the negotiations for the nation.

Do the actual members of the first nation support this, do you even know?
Most of them do.

How do you know?
Just from talking to people.

So, no consultation, no referendum, no Chief meetings, no community polling, no input whatsoever, “just from talking to people”, and that is good enough for Elmer and Enbridge to host an international media scrum.

After the 2008 fiasco with his announced “Alternative Gitxsan Governance Model” the Nation became somewhat fractured. Lawsuits were filed and challenges to authority were levelled.

On October 2 of 2008, a world renowned Gitxsan and widely published author on aboriginal matters, Neil Sterritt, wrote a letter critiquing the dictatorial approach of the GTO.

“As a Gitxsan person and former leader, my personal vision is of an umbrella organization that is a positive, respectful, uniting force for all Gitxsan people, rather than one that arbitrarily polarizes and divides the people.”

The response from the GTO ignored the unity issue and focused almost entirely on attacking the Indian Act and the Band Councils; not a whisper of compromise and conciliation.

Clashes of authority took on such a heightened exchange that a Band Council made a resolution in December 2009 to burn down an unauthorized building being constructed on reserve land using funds provided by Derrick and the GTO; and burn it they did. The claim at the time was the Hereditary Chiefs were attempting to re-establish the Village Community of Gisega’as, which had been incorporated into the village of Gitanmaax in 1947/48. This was a direct challenge to the authority of the Band Council who had filed a lawsuit earlier in 2009. The lawsuit had Village Councils and Hereditary Chiefs on one side with the GTO and Hereditary Chiefs on the other. This all happened during the emotionally trying time after the RCMP hunted down and shot a young native man in the bush at a hunting cabin just a few miles north.

Two years later the GTO had provided the seed capital for the new Hazelton Ice Arena and Sports complex, which saw all organizations and Villages jump on board; Native and non-Native alike. The municipal and regional authorities all joined in, which culminated in last week’s phenomenal declaration at the Regional District Kitimat Stikine.

One can only wonder if Chief Derrick will have a moment of clarity and recognize the harm he has perpetrated.

A real Hereditary Chief only speaks for his people when he consults with his people and gets the authority to deliver their decision. Chief Derrick did not do this most primary function.

When asked why he chose now to make this announcement he answered this way.

Why did you chose now to sign?
The opportunity to sign today that’s all

How much did the announcement this week by many First nation that didn’t support the pipeline or tankers influence today’s announcement.
I really wasn’t aware, unfortunately, of the details of the announcement that came out yesterday or the day before. So this announcement today has no bearing on what’s been done over the past day or so.

Just another coincidence it appears, only a couple of days after a united statement of solidarity by BC First Nations communities, Enbridge suddenly makes a signing opportunity available for Chief Derrick.

It should also be pointed out Derrick has been working on securing the position of the pipe pig owner and operator. It was announced over a year ago how the GTO was negotiating with Enbridge to secure the entire ownership of the pig function.

This is a unit specifically designed to travel inside the pipe inspecting the interior surfaces for corrosion and security.

Has this anything to do with your attempt to own the pig?
We haven’t talked about specifics but we’re hopeful that we’ll get some opportunities to enable some Gitxsan contractors to actually do some major works for the project.

The safety of the pipe should be of considerable importance to those who have it traversing their lands.

How many kilometres of that pipeline will run through your nation’s territory?
There is actually none that will run through our territory.

How do you think your decision will affect your relationship with other first Nations in the Area?
Hopefully it will not impact our relationship negatively, we’ve always been frank with our opinions on different projects and we respect the positions taken by the other First Nations, our neighbours.

At the end of the day will it be Hereditary Chiefs who decide how the money is spent?
It’ll be, ah, it’ll be ah, it’ll involve the whole community.

So you don’t really have a structure for the money will be distributed?
Oh, we do.

So how will you consult the community?
Well we ah, um, like we always do, we have continual meetings with everybody.

Where does the decision making process end?
Well there will be a board and professional administrators.
sick to my stomach
Comment by Calvin on 3rd December 2011
i guess they found thier patsy . im just sick to my stomach.