Video: First Nations Group Occupy Lelu Island to Save Flora Banks
Lax Kw’alaams First Nation members set up camp on Lelu Island to prevent its use as a liquefied natural gas terminal.
A group led by North Coast Lax Kw’alaams members have set up a camp on Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, as part of a “peaceful occupation” of the island that is the proposed site of Pacific Northwest LNG, a consortium led by Malaysian energy giant Petronas.
The first tent was setup on Lelu Island the night of Aug. 25.
The camp was initiated by Lax Kw’alaams, Hereditary Chief Sm’oogyet Yahaan (Don Wesley Sr.), who traveled to his traditional territory with his sons Don and Joey to exercise his Aboriginal right to the territory and protect Flora Bank from industrial activity.
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“We are there to carry out traditional Tsimshian activities such as smoking salmon, picking berries, drying halibut strips, and picking medicines such as devil’s club, and have every right to do so with Sm’oogyet Yahaan’s permission,” reads a statement from the group.
One of the concerns of those involved relates to the eelgrass on Flora Bank, an important habitat feature for salmon in the area.
“We got word that they’re trying to cut off eelgrass off Flora banks, and they’re going to try to transplant that at another location in the Skeena River here somewhere,” said Joey Wesley.
The occupation of Lelu Island, was sparked by recent sightings of a barge carrying equipment into the area for investigative work by Petronas contractors.
The group has launched the Stop Pacific NorthWest LNG/Petronas on Lelu Island Facebook page to provide updates on their activity.
Many people — including the Gitxsan, Haida, Nisga’a and Lake Babine First Nations, as well as non-native people — have been to the island.
Video: Pacific NorthWest LNG outlined some of the work it intends to do on Lelu Island during a media tour of the island.
The terminal and its pipeline has been viewed as a leading project in the Christy Clark-led Liberal government’s efforts to start a new natural gas export industry to Asia.
The $36-billion project — by Malaysian state-controlled Petronas — has been approved by the province but is mired in a federal review that stalled because of concerns over the project’s effects on Flora Bank.
Earlier this year, the Lax Kw’alaams rejected a $1.15-billion benefits package from the company and B.C. government over similar concerns.
Hereditary Chief Sm’oogyet Yahaan said they were there to tell the people of Canada and British Columbia they were not giving up Flora Bank and want Lelu Island to remain intact. “If you take away the fish, then you take away the people. It’s as simple as that,” he said, referring to the importance of Flora Bank to salmon rearing.
He notes that the Island has been used as a homestead by his people for over 10,000 years.