Mayor completely out of touch with membership and tribes say Lax Kw'alaams Chiefs and Community Members

PRINCE RUPERT, BC, June 9, 2015 /CNW/ - Elders, Hereditary Chiefs, and community members of Lax Kw'alaams were surprised to learn of Mayor Gary Reece's comments that there was no support for the proposal of Eagle Spirit Energy to build a pipeline that would ship upgraded/refined crude oil to the north coast. This was particularly astonishing in light of many well-attended meetings where overwhelming support has been shown (two of which were band called meetings chaired by the Mayor).

`Nda Łimoomdm Sts`ool (Ron Haldane) a Lik`agyet am Ts`msyen of Lax Kw`alaams said that, "Eagle Spirit Energy has received unanimous support from Lax Kw`alaams membership from Prince Rupert, and Terrace. Mayor Reece also just chaired an Eagle Spirit Energy presentation in Lax Kw`alaams and our members were fully in favour of what they had to offer as the proposal calmed environmental concerns and was far more beneficial than other LNG pipeline proposals brought forward by the Mayor. Also, when the deal is approved Lax Kw`alaams Ts`msyen will be full partners with the potential of business opportunities in other areas that our members are interested in." He stated further that "While Mayor Reece used the same process for the Eagle Spirit and the Pacific Northwest LNG presentations, the difference was that everybody voted in favour of Eagle Spirit Energy and what they had to offer. Why is Mayor Reece once again changing the rules to suit him and not following the will of the people? As it now stands, community members receive absolutely no information as to what is happening with our corporations and community resources."

Elders Ski-las (Jack White), and Eddie Robertson stated, "It seems like we have replaced the colonial Indian Agent who would determine what is best for us 'dumb Indians' with a Mayor. Who is he to profess to speak for our families, tribes and community when we have not being provided with information on anything in our village—let alone information on other pipeline projects that will impact our traditional territories? We want openness and transparency and morality and we don't appreciate the ongoing intimidation or being bullied by one person." G'uin bax me dik (George Bryant) stated that, "The Mayor has just admitted to a few of our members that he has received over $14 million from LNG pipeline companies and over the past several years has not and will not tell our membership who is holding that money, how much has been spent and on what it has been spent. Those resources are held for the use and benefit of all membership—not just the Mayor, his cronies, lawyers and consultants. We have the right to know about our own assets."

Councilors Ted White, Helen Johnson, and Chris Sankey stated that, "Eagle Spirit is the only pipeline group that has provided ongoing and detailed information to our community on their project—one that puts the environment and First Nations first. Over the last three years they have had several meetings with our community members in which detailed information was provided. In the first meeting chaired by the Mayor in Lax Kw'alaams, a vote was taken which was overwhelmingly in favour of signing a non-disclosure agreement with Eagle Spirit because community members were truly interested in the project. Additional meetings were held in Prince Rupert, Lax Kw'alaams, and Vancouver with the same result. Our community members have said they want to proceed to the next stage with Eagle Spirit. They are not being asked to sign a final agreement."

Hereditary Sm'gyegt (Chiefs) of the nine tribes of Lax Kw'alaams Nees Nuganoos (Randy Dudoward), Ligi Watgwatk (Donald Alexcee), Nees Wexs (Clyde Dudoward), and Gitxoon (Alex Campbell) stated, "The Mayor can huff and puff to try convince the public about his power but his sole declaration has no impact in our tribal territories. If anyone, the government, the Mayor, or whoever thinks they can make a sole declaration about our traditional territories without our members support they will find differently. We are prepared to work with elected leadership but we will not be disrespectfully pressured or talked down to like children." Sm'goygit Gitxoon, Laxgiit Gispaxlo'ots (Hereditary Chief Alex Campbell) added further that, "I was in the gym at Lax Kw'alaams during Eagle Spirit's presentation on May 9th. The room was filled with band members when, Garry asked 'Do you all agree with Eagle Spirit's presentation?' Band members clapped and many band members called out 'yes' in response to his question."

Hereditary House Leader Xaiget (Robert Sankey) commented, "The lawfulness of the entire Lax Kw'alaams claim to traditional territory is based on the nine tribes and their houses. Without their legitimate claims to our traditional territory there is nothing to ground our traditional claims. An Indian Act Mayor has little say in what happens in the lands that belong to our houses and their families outside of the reserve lands. It is extremely disrespectful of our traditions and protocols for one person to announce he has made the decision for everyone when Chiefs have already met with their house leaders and tribal members."

Youth representative who attended meetings with Eagle Spirit Cody Wesley, suggested, "Right now we have no opportunities in our community. We have had non-First Nations people working for our community who have in the past put out misleading media information about the great economic progress we have been making. I live there and want to know where it is. We want jobs, opportunity and to have some hope—a future that is clearly lacking under current community leadership. If we don't take action in a unified voice (with other First Nations across B.C.) we are going to get bitumen (heavy oil) shipped by rail to the coast and will have no input into the environmental protections or benefits."

Suu laxha (Brenda Wesley) commented that, "If the media and other Canadians are interested in seeking true answers to success that contributes to the healthy growth of First Nations people, they should make the connection between the goals of Eagle Spirit Holdings and the Truth and Reconciliation report. Eagle Spirit gives First Nations the choice of being a true partner in the planning of our lives as well as establishing prosperity within world-class guidelines that will protect the environment. Oil and gas is being pushed forward by the government. This is nothing new. Eagle Spirit is assisting us to self-regulate as well as self-organize in order to adapt to the changes and the pressures which are at times being pushed on us." 

SOURCE Lax Kw'alaams Community

For further information: Brenda Wesley (250) 922-5353 or Robert Sankey (250) 624-5785

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