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 

Lelu IslandPacific NorthWest LNG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Poppy donation boxes have been delivered to restaurants, cafes, stores and places of businesses in Prince Rupert by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 127 for the 2020 National Poppy Campaign. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
National poppy campaign restricted by COVID-19

Prince Rupert Royal Canadian legion expects less donations to offer vital assistance to local vets

Elena Tran 9, grade five student at Conrad Elementary School learns about Truth and Reconciliation on Oct. 21 with the story of Chanie Wenjack who died at the side of rail lines while fleeing a residential school in 1967. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Conrad Elementary students learn of ‘reconciliACTION’ during Secret Path Week

Secret Path Week from Oct. 17 to 22 commemorates the passing of Chani Wenjack and Gord Downie

More than $10,000 in donations and toys was presented to the Salvation Army by the Prince Rupert Harley riders on Oct. 20, from the 39th annual Toy Ride held on Sept 26. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Harley Riders rode to victory with $10,000 donation to Salvation Army

The 39th annual Prince Rupert Harley Riders gifted more than 280 toys from the annual Toy Ride

The Prince Rupert Port Authority Land Use Plan will guide the growth within lands and waters under its jurisdiction and facilitate Canada’s trade with the world for the next 20 years. (Photo: Supplied by Port of Prince Rupert)
Land Use Plan finalized by Port Authority

PRPA Land Use Plan plan guides the growth and trade for next 20 years within its lands and waters

Such sweetness with all this candy. Dylan Kennedy 7, with his mom Kerri Kennedy volunteer at the Halloween Fest Committee event to bag candy for students in SD 52 on Oct. 19. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
How sweet it is

Bags of candy were assembled by more than 25 Halloween Fest Volunteers for distribution to S.D. 52

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Most Read