Chief Na’Moks stood in the dark of a small smokehouse nestled in the Coast range of British Columbia. Hanging above him were nearly a thousand fish which glinted over the fire below.
“For us, it’s one of the most highly prized commodities that we have,” he said, pulling one of the glistening candlefish off the rack. “People don’t get why we want to keep what we have. We don’t want anything from anyone. We just want to keep what we have.”
Not so long ago, the chief’s ancestors traded fish oil along the grease trails up and down the coast of British Columbia. Today, however, Chief Na’Moks and many other First Nations leaders are at the forefront of a struggle against a very different kind of oil business: Canada’s largest proposed tar sands pipeline, the Northern Gateway.
It is the country’s environmental battle of the decade, uniting a wide variety of citizens’ groups against the billions of dollars of investment by oil companies and millions in secret funding from the government. First proposed in 2004, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline was planned for a 731-mile (1,177km) stretch from the center of Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.
The plan was to carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands, across hundreds of waterways, over two major mountain ranges and through some of the wildest country in North America. It was approved, with 209 conditions, in June of 2014.
Environmental groups, citizen activists and First Nations have used everything from lawsuits to old-fashioned civil disobedience to battle the project – and so far they have been successful. No mean feat, considering that Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper took office in 2006 pledging to make the country into an “energy superpower”.
Indigenous Canadians take leading role in battle against tar sands pipeline | World news | The Guardian