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Yinka Dene Alliance send formal notice to Harper: No oil pipeline on their land.

By: 
Bradley Hughes

April 28, 2014

The First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance summoned representatives of the Canadian government to Nak'azdli, British Columbia, to hear the formal reasons for the Alliance's refusal to allow the Enbridge Pipeline to cross their lands.. At a gathering on April 12,  hereditary and elected leaders, elders, youth and other representatives from the First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance provided their reasons for baning the tar sands pipeline from their land to Harper's officials.

The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, Wet'suwet'en, and Tl’azt’en First Nations in northern BC who have banned the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines from their territories. Their original decision to ban the pipeline was published in 2010 as the Save The Fraser declaration, which has now been signed by over 130 First Nations. The declaration states,  “A threat to the Fraser and its headwaters is a threat to all who depend on its health. We will not allow our fish, animals, plants, people and ways of life to be placed at risk“  The signatories explain that,  “We have come together to defend these lands and waters from a grave threat: the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project.” They conclude, “therefore, in upholding our ancestral laws, Title, Rights and responsibilities, we declare: We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.”

In their presentation to the Canadian officials, Chief Fred Sam of the Nak’azdli First Nation explained, “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.” He continued, “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”.
Chief Anita Williams of Takla Lake First Nation explained some of her reasons: “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.”

The Canadian delegation included Brett Maracle, the federal official responsible for First Nations consultation on the Enbridge pipeline proposal. 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.

If there was any real justice in the territories claimed by the Canadian government, this would be the end of the pipeline project. “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.”

You can add your support to the Yinka Dene Alliance by signing the solidarity declaration and by getting your union, faith group or student union to sign it as well. The solidarity declaration is on line at www.holdthewall.ca.
 
If you like this article, register for Marxism 2014: Resisting a System in Crisis, a weekend-long political conference June 14-15 in Toronto. Sessions include "System change not climate change," "Environmental racism and climate justice," and "Today's resistance to the genocide of Indigenous people."

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