Idle No More’s Sylvia McAdam Reacts to Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

First Nations women protesters at Canadian Parliment in Ottawa to protest pipeline. PHOTO By: Clayton Thomas-Muller

First Nations women protesters at Canadian Parliment in Ottawa to protest pipeline. PHOTO By: Clayton Thomas-Muller

VANCOVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — On June 17, the conservative government of Canada, headed by Prime Minister Harper gave the green light for the completion of the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project. Sylvia McAdam, one of the founders of Idle No More, talked by telephone to voice her reaction to approval by the Harper government.

This projected pipeline project will transport 200 million barrels of diluted bitumen a year from Alberta’s oil sands, 1,177 kilometers to Kitmat, British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers bound for Asian markets. Enbridge’s tanker and pipeline project exposes all communities from Alberta, through British Columbia to the Pacific Coast to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills.

First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses unacceptable risks to the environment, health, safety, and livelihoods throughout the province.

Darlene Chocan and Loretta Worm protest the pipeline at Parliament of Canada. PHOTO By: Clayton Thomas-Muller

Darlene Chocan and Loretta Worm protest the pipeline at Parliament of Canada. PHOTO By: Clayton Thomas-Muller

The First Nations of British Columbia have said in statements to Harper’s government and to the press, “We have governed our lands in accordance to our indigenous laws since time immemorial. Our inherent Title and Rights and our legal authority over our respective territories have never been surrendered. Our inherent rights are human rights constitutionally enshrined, judicially recognized and embodied in international legal instruments including the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories. Our rights and laws compel us to act.”

This declaration was signed by 38 different tribal groups, whose lands will be directly affected by the Enbridge project. Some of these include the Council of Haida Nation, Gitan maax Band Council, Gitanyou Hereditary Chiefs, Gitgaat, Yinka Dene Alliance, St’at’imc Chiefs Council, BC Assembly of First Nations, Cree Nation. Many protests and demonstrations have already begun, with tribes and their supporters vowing to go to jail, if necessary.

Sylvia McAdam, from the Saysewahum or Cree Nation, B.H.J., L.L.B. (she is a lawyer and holds a Bachelor of Human Justice degree) and is one of the original founders of the Idle No More Movement said during a phone interview on June 18:

“Today, I am feeling so sad and emotional. I can hardly speak without crying. I am Saysewahum or Northern Cree, and the expansion of tar sands will eventually affect my peoples’ lands with the approval of the pipeline.

Our other First Nation neighbors such as the Dene will also be directly impacted first by this pipeline. This is land that is so pristine you can actually drink water directly from the stream that is completely chemical free.

My dad is a traditional medicine man, and he makes our medicine from this water and the plants that grow here. If this pipeline goes through, if it spills, we can no longer gather plants or use our water for medicines. We always put gifts here too, you know, for the little people.

These past several years, when I visit our forest, there are already paved roads leading to our traditional lands. They are already blocking our roads. When I traveled on the roads that lead to our traditional hunting grounds the week-end before, I saw an oil tanker truck already.

This is where Idle No More began for me. I was trying to defend my Dad’s one stream and the land where my family and our people are buried. Enbridge is a huge, human violation.

Before my Grandpa passed away, he asked us, really begged us to protect these lands and our waters. I never understood until now, why he was so adamant. That is why I encourage everyone in Idle No More, here and our supporters in the U.S. to please, find your voices. Never stay silent, because in Canada, that legally means you have acquiesced, or you legally agree with decisions made by others about your future. Find your voice in poetry, song, art, organizing, any way you can in order to resist these various pipeline and tanker projects through our land and waters.

We women have led this movement, and I will continue, to my last breath, to defend. Remember, we did not start this fight. We are here to defend what is right and just. Thank you all for standing with us”.

Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota, Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is “Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down,” published by Scarlett Tanager Press; “Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women,” Malinalli Press, and “Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006.” She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal and Native News Online.

CORRECTION MADE: Friday, June 20, 2014, 1:10 pm – EDT

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