Natives from the Lax Kw’alaams Band in northern British Columbia just made a huge stand for themselves and the environment, turning down a gas deal worth $960 million in order to preserve the lands that their people have called home for generations.
A group led by Malaysia’s state owned oil company Petronus offered $267,0000 to each of the band’s 3,600 members, hoping the money would persuade the group to allow the construction of an oil expert terminal on their ancestral lands.
But the Lax Kw’alaams were having none of it — community leaders voted unanimously against the deal on Wednesday.
“This is not a money issue: this is environmental and cultural,”
the group said in a statement following their decision.
According to Bloomberg, the group’s environmental concerns include, “the potential destruction of salmon habitat, the lack of access to harvest traditional plants near the terminal and the risk that its seafood resources would be contaminated.”
The vote came as no surprise. Garry Reece, mayor of the town of Lax Kw’alaams, said in an interview earlier this week that there has been overwhelming opposition to the idea of building a oil export terminal in the area.
The Lax Kw’alaams community has also voted unanimously against the project in three separate polls. Their ability to block the proposal is thanks in part to a landmark decision in the Canadian Supreme Court last year.
In June of 2014, the Court upheld the land claim of a small First Nations (Canadian equivalent of Native American) group in B.C. that had no official treaty with the federal government.
The decision set a precedent, giving other First Nation group without treaties — like the Lax Kw’alaams Band — more control over how resources are developed on their ancestral lands.
Read the full story from Bloomberg.
Who Are the natives of Lax Kw’alaams?
“Lax Kw’alaams is a jewel on the edge of the mystical coastal temperate rain forest on the northwestern coast of British Columbia. From time immemorial the Tsimshian, an adventurous sea-faring people, have lived in their traditional territories near the city of Prince Rupert. Akin to other people of the Northwest Coast, the Tsimshian were fearsome warriors living in complex cultural tapestry. It was the first Aboriginal community in B.C to officially change its English name to its Aboriginal name–from Port Simpson to Lax Kw’alaams.”
Learn more about the Lax Kw’alaams Band on the group’s official website.