The Petronas LNG plant could spell the end of healthy and abundant Skeena salmon runs, on which many First Nations in northern BC and southeast Alaska depend; any threat to their salmon fisheries threatens their survival as Aboriginal peoples. Without access to abundant salmon, these Nations will be unable to share this bounty through traditional feasts which reaffirm their culture and their Indigenous law and governance, and ensure their health and well-being.
Yet these Nations say that the federal government failed to adequately consult and accommodate First Nations’ Constitutionally-affirmed Aboriginal rights and title. The Nations contend that the federal government cherry-picked only a fraction of Aboriginal groups to consult with, entirely excluding upper Skeena Nations.
If the proposed Petronas project is developed, the region’s First Nations stand to lose 10,000 years of Indigenous cultural heritage, including the grease trail “Babine Trail”. There will be direct and indirect adverse impacts of the proposed pipeline to First Nations rights, including title. These include negative effects to fish and their habitats, wildlife and their habitats, terrestrial and aquatic resources, including cumulative effects, as well as large-scale impacts to social, cultural, and economic values.
The LNG pipeline and LNG terminal will have detrimental impacts on the wildlife and ecosystems along the route— but especially in the Skeena River estuary. The mouth of the Skeena, where this grand river meets the Pacific Ocean, is a vital habitat for more than 300 million juvenile salmon who depend on the Flora Bank in the Skeena estuary for their survival. This LNG terminal may prove catastrophic for the wild salmon population of the entire Skeena Watershed, on which 10 First Nations and a total of 60,000 people depend for their lives and livelihoods. The wild salmon economy is worth $100 million per year.1 Meanwhile, Petronas plans to replace these sustainable, long-term livelihoods with temporary jobs, 40% of which will be filled by workers brought in from outside of Canada.
The LNG plant could spell the end of healthy and abundant Skeena salmon runs, on which many First Nations in northern BC and Southeast Alaska depend; any threat to their salmon fisheries threatens their survival as an Aboriginal people.
Our goal is to raise $300,000. Funds are urgently needed for case preparation, drafting pleadings and motions, and court time. A generous donor is matching every donation dollar for dollar, until the goal is reached.
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, based in Terrace, is also challenging the Petronas project in court. Both SkeenaWild and Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition are working closely with the four Nations and RAVEN to help raise funds to stop the Petronas project.
The Gitsxan House of Luutkudziiwus possess two ancestral territories: Madii Lii, which is located on the north bank of Suskwa River, and Xsi Gwin Hauums, which is located on the north bank of the Skeena River across from Hazelton, BC.
The Gitxsan House of Gwininitxw holds and exercises authority over two territories: Galaanhl Giist and Maxhla Didaat in the upper Skeena. These Gitxsan territories support salmon migration, spawning, and rearing in a myriad of freshwater habitats.
Both Luutkudziiwus and Gwininitxw Aboriginal rights were confirmed by the ground-breaking Supreme Court of Canada decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. Delgamuukw has confirmed Gitxsan fishing rights in the Skeena, Babine, Nass and Bulkley watersheds.
The Tsimshian Tribe of Gitwilgyoots holds territories along the lower Skeena River and adjacent coast, including Lelu Island, Ridley Island and the surrounding estuarine banks.
The Gitanyow have Aboriginal rights and title to territories in the upper Skeena that includes the Kitwanga River and Gitanyow (Kitwancool) Lake. The Gitwilgyoots assert Aboriginal title to territories in the lower Skeena and its estuary including Lelu Island and Flora Bank, and the Aboriginal right to hunt and fish for salmon and other marine resources in the Skeena estuary and the Skeena River.
The LNG terminal proposed for Lelu Island and Flora Bank poses risk to fish and First Nations fisheries throughout the Skeena watershed. According to a survey conducted by Lake Babine Nation Fisheries, 85 per cent of all juvenile Skeena salmon rear in and around Lelu Island. These salmon are harvested in at least ten different First Nations territories.
Salmon are the basic economic unit of Gitxsan culture. Even though the Gitxsan do not hold territory in the estuary, the salmon are dependent on a resilient and fully-functioning estuarine ecology. “Fishing is a central part of Gitxsan culture and history,” says Chief Luutkudziiwus (Charlie Wright). “It remains vital to our communities’ health and well-being.”
Without access to abundant salmon, the Nations in the Skeena watershed will be unable to share this bounty through traditional feasts which reaffirm their culture and their Indigenous law and governance.
According to Chief Gwininitxw (Yvonne Lattie), the Petronas project could “seriously impact the salmon stocks and nullify the massive amount of time, energy and resources Gwininitxw has invested in conservation and protection measures on our upper Skeena territories”, including the Slamgeesh River salmon monitoring program, which has received the recognition by the international Pacific Salmon Commission.
The Gitanyow rely on the salmon in the Kitwanga River, a major tributary of the Skeena, for food, social and ceremonial fishing. Over the past 50 years, the Gitanyow have spent significant time and resources to preserve and rebuild the Kitwanga sockeye to historic levels. The Petronas project would likely result in the extirpation of the Kitwanga salmon and render useless the Gitanyow Aboriginal right to fish the Kitwanga stocks.
RAVEN is encouraging people everywhere to be part of the effort to protect wild salmon from LNG development. Standing with First Nations to stop Petronas is an important, strategic move that will help protect wild salmon for future generations. There are three ways to contribute:
Donate online -. Whatever your capacity, there is a way to help us win this fight. Your donation, be it $10 or $1000, goes directly toward helping First Nations stop the project in the courts.
Fundraise online – Through our simple, effective online fundraising platform, you can set up your own crowd-funding page, set a target, and reach out to your friends, co-workers and family to help you reach your goal. It takes just minutes to get your own mini-campaign going – and it’s easy and fun!
Host fundraising events in your community — Host a film screening, a dinner, a fishing party, or team up with your favourite coffee shop/grocery store/outdoor outfitter for an in-store fundraiser. Doing a real-world fundraiser is one of the best ways to raise money and deepen community solidarity with the First Nations leading this legal challenge. Hosting a “Wild for Salmon” event can be fun and is a rewarding way to contribute towards the success of legal efforts trying to stop LNG infrastructure from forever changing the course of life along the Skeena. Events can be simple – like a car wash or bottle drive, a wild salmon BBQ, a movie night, or a benefit concert. We’ve got supportive materials on hand to help your event be a success! To get started organizing an event, contact RAVEN Trust.
~ Chief Gwininitxw (Yvonne Lattie)