Friends, just to say a word or two in support of our Dene Chiefs, like Gerry Cheezie of Smith’s Landing First Nation.
News/North’s excellent article by Blair McBride clearly outlines how the community, right at the NWT/Alberta border, has the most to lose.
Given the $20.5 billion Teck Resources project, it’s easy to see how any place downstream will feel the effects of the pollution, as it gets dumped right into the waters flowing north. At 260 thousand barrels of oil per day the poisons to our water systems would be devastating, to say the least.
One other thing that is always so clear is that leaders like Cheezie and Francois Paulette, also living there, have been taking the exact same opposition to major effects to our lands and waters for decades.
In this age of recollection, I can still see them holding forth on whatever Big Industry had in mind for the North.
The first pipeline debate was one test which we the Dene stood firm on and stopped.
Since the early 1970s our leaders have had to face up to any number of government faces with the same idea, to take whatever our resources are available, treaty rights or not.
In Gerry Cheezie’s case it particularly rankles that Teck Resources has signed on a total of 14 Indigenous communities, without even offering Smith Landing any of the impact benefits agreements. In fact, one place is even upstream from the project’s plans!
Chief Cheezie sees his Smith Landing First Nations as the “gatekeepers of the waters”.
Many of our Dene communities will have to continue trying to deal with the effects of all the sloppy environmental fallout from the Tar Sand in Alberta.
Last summer, and as part of my research for my Indigenous PhD Studies I helped put together a Cancer Victims Mural in Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope.
There are a total of 45 names of these people, ones you’d see pretty well every day and now all scattered underground, at the local graveyard. It felt surreal, adding my own mother’s name to the list on the mural, along with any number of cousins, uncles and aunts.
Once our community saw to it that another source of cleaner water was made available, the number of deaths dropped off, almost back to normal.
But with companies like Teck Resources eager to again pillage our waters we can only count on leaders like Gerry Cheezie and ourselves.
Mahsi, thank you.