VIDEO and story: Totem pole raised on Lelu after LNG project falls

More than 100 people came to the pole raising on Lelu Island after the end of Pacific NorthWest LNG

In a stand of defiance against federal authorities, members of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe and supporters raised a totem pole on Lelu Island on Oct. 20 to signify their claim to the land.

The occupation of Lelu Island began in 2015 on the site where Petronas proposed to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and it has continued even after the company abandoned its Pacific NorthWest LNG project in July.

People who either took part or supported the resistance movement came to witness the totem pole being raised on a mound overlooking where the sea meets the Skeena River.

RELATED: THE FOOTPRINT PACIFIC NORTHWEST LNG LEFT BEHIND

“It’s a historic event. It’s to signify who were are, where we come from, what we stand for and this is our territory. We’re marking our territory, we’re occupying our land as we have years ago,” said Ken Lawson, or Gwishawaal of wolf clan, a Gitwilgyoots house leader of one of nine allied tribes of the Lax Kw’alaams.

However, the territory they have claimed is federal Crown land. While a few boats transported approximately 100 people from Port Edward to the island, the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) patrol boat remained close.

“Lelu Island is federal land within the managerial jurisdiction of PRPA. In compliance with that responsibility, PRPA considers any activities conducted on Lelu Island without PRPA authorization as trespass. PRPA has not been asked for authorization, nor has PRPA granted authorization, for any construction on Lelu Island,” stated the port authority in an email.

Yet, people had come from all over to witness the event. There were members of Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, Gitga’at and Gitxsan Nation, as well as non-Indigenous people who travelled from Montreal, Wyoming, California and New Mexico. They stood close together on a muddy knoll to watch the cedar pole with a wolf near the base carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray.

Vincent Sampare, youth inclusion program coordinator at the Friendship House, brought a group of Indigenous youths to share traditional knowledge of their culture. For many of them this was their first pole raising experience.

“We showed up when they were still carving it and some of the youth here actually helped with the carving so we made them follow through with the entire process,” Sampare said. “And it’s healing for them too.”

Desiree Bolton and her son drove from Terrace, and had supported the protest against building a LNG terminal on Lelu Island. “It’s pretty important because as First Nations we depend a lot on the land for our food sources and our medicines,” she said.

RELATED: TRIBE OR BAND, A JUDGE WILL DECIDE WHO REPRESENTS LELU

The concern many have with Lelu Island is the effect that a LNG terminal, or other industrial development, would have on the salmon habitat in the Flora Bank and surrounding the area. This was the reason Donald Wesley, or Yahaan, started the occupation on Lelu Island. He has been involved in a federal court battle to overturn the government’s decision to approve the now defunct Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

“It’s a very happy time for everybody of the Tsimshian Nation who were concerned about this. We’ll take this as a W, which is a win. This is a win not for myself and Yahaan, but a win for the nation and the people, not just the First Nations people but all the people of B.C. and Canada because we all use this resource. We all love the clean air, we all love the clean water, we did what we had to do,” Lawson said.

Since the first structures were built on Lelu Island two years ago, they have continued to develop on the land to mark their claim.

There are now two buildings, the totem pole and Lawson said they have many more plans, but there “has to be agreements” first.

RELATED: CASE DISMISSED OVER LELU ISLAND

 

shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com 

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

 

The totem pole for Lelu Island was carved by Tsimshian carver Phil Gray. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

(Above) Ken Lawson, or Gwishawaal, before the totem pole was raised on Lelu Island, Oct. 20. (Below) Indigenous and non-Indigenous people came from all over the continent to help raise the totem pole on Lelu Island. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Myrtle Ryan took part in the ceremony to blow life onto the totem pole before it was raised on Lelu Island. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Indigenous and non-Indigenous people came from all over the continent to help raise the totem pole on Lelu Island. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Ken Lawson, or Gwishawaal, with his wife after the totem pole was raised on Lelu Island, Oct. 20. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Patricia and Ken Lawson, or Gwishawaal, pose for photos after the totem pole was raised on Lelu Island, Oct. 20. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Just Posted

Roy & Rosemary bring the sounds of Hollywood to Prince Rupert

The piano and violin duo perform at the Lester Centre with Cody Karey

Second reported cougar sighting near Conrad

Conservation officer said sightings in Prince Rupert not uncommon

Money does grow on trees

Sharon and Malcolm Sampson won the 2018 money tree from Cook’s Jewellers

In Our Opinion: Grinch who stole from KAPS

Prince Rupert had its very own Grinch over the holidays

Pedestrian hit by cab in crosswalk on Second Avenue

A woman was in the crosswalk in Prince Rupert when she was struck by a taxi on Jan. 17

This Week Episode 68

From inside the Northern View office in Prince Rupert we bring you all the news headlines

Carriers wanted for the Northern View

We have open routes for carriers all over Prince Rupert

WestJet appeals lost bid to scrap harassment lawsuit

Airline argues judge was wrong to have dismissed the company’s application to strike the legal action

Can U.S. border guards search your phone? Yes, and here’s how

Secretary of homeland security explains a new policy that let’s border guards check phones

‘Beautiful writer’ Nancy Richler dies of cancer in Vancouver hospital

Montreal-born author spent most of her adult life in B.C. as a fiction writer and novelist

B.C. commuters vote to rename bus service to ‘Jeff’

The company asked and the people of Facebook answered

Students frustrated by UBCO response to harassment allegations

Students on the Kelowna campus were unaware of resources and worried about lack of communication

Opinion: Dare to be smarter

Just say no works for more than just substance abuse

‘Sing Me a Song’ about B.C. for a chance at $1,000 contest prize

Entries due by March 30 for lieutenant-governor’s British Columbia-themed competition

Most Read