An Earth Day homecoming story

For Earth Day, we thought we’d share an inspiring  story of resilience and strength from Gitxaala Nation. Enjoy! 

It’s been 138 years since an Indigenous house post was chopped down by missionaries,  sold to outsiders, damaged and then displayed as an ‘historic oddity’, before being packed in storage for decades. 

Last month, the longhouse post, which has deep cultural value for the Gitxaała Nation,  came back home to their north coast territory.

We love to see this: we are so happy for Gitxaała standing up against colonial forces to preserve their land and culture for future generations.

It’s the same spirit that has sustained Gitxaała through two gruelling weeks of court hearings. At the B.C. Supreme Court, the Nation’s legal arguments were bolstered by evidence brought forward by a series of intervenors in the case. In addition to some expected intervenors — the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the Office of the BC Human Rights Commissioner, the BC Assembly of First Nations — there was a group of corporate representatives who, as mining industry insiders, also took the stand to support long-overdue changes to the unjust Mineral Tenure Act.

Just as they brought about the  return of a wrongfully stolen totem, Gitxaala Nation have been guided by ancestors in the pursuit of justice in their mining justice  case. The spiritual home of hereditary Chief Nees Hiwaas is known, in his language, as a place where people are “ to bind together,  to unite as one,  to uplift and encourage each other.”

That sacred site also happens to be Lax k’naga dzol, the site where, after the Yellow Giant mining company despoiled a watershed and then cut and run, the Nation stood up and said, ‘enough’. 

Enough of granting mining claims (to anyone with a laptop and 25 bucks) without Indigenous consultation.

Enough of behaving as though industry is the highest possible use of the land. 

Enough of treating unceded “Crown land” as an undeveloped wasteland, ripe for the picking. 

Enough of Big Mining running roughshod over Indigenous land-use planning processes. 

This case – like the house post that will stand proudly in the village of  Lax Klan once again – stands up Indigenous stewardship values and Indigenous legal frameworks that will nurture Gitxaala people in this north coast archipelago for generations to come. And, its impact will spread: a win for Gitxaala would change the way lands and waters are managed all across B.C. 

We are so honoured to have been a part of bringing this landmark case before the courts. And we are hugely grateful to you for the support you’ve given. We still have $10k remaining in our matching funds pool: if you have it in you, please donate. 

We’ll leave you with the words of Gitxaala eagle chieftain Matthew Hill, “I was talking to one of our elders,  and she was talking about having a heavy heart. And after all the interveners, she talked about how that big load was gone. We were not alone. To have people in support of what we’re doing:  that is really encouraging! Like the word for my territory : “we are uplifting.”

Thank you for reaching deep, and reaching out.

Take Action