High Country News reported that a Malaysian energy company recently offered a $1.15 billion package deal to the Lax Kw’alaam First Nation, a tribe in Northern British Columbia, in return for the right to build a natural gas export terminal on the tribe’s lands. Each tribe member would have received nearly $260,000 (CAN $319,000); however, accepting this offer would have meant placing the local salmon habitat at risk.
Placing the safety of their land over money, the community unanimously voted against the terminal on May 13th.
“Hopefully, the public will recognize that unanimous consensus in communities against a project where those communities are offered in excess of a billion dollars, sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue: This is environmental and cultural,” Garry Reece, the mayor of the town of Lax Kw’alaams, said in a statement announcing the vote.
The Lax Kw’alaam First Nation’s stand against fossil fuel energy companies is certainly an inspirational act. In a world where pollution and the over-extraction of resources are rapidly harming our planet, it is encouraging to see people stand up for and protect the land, even when that means sacrificing large monetary offers such as this.
“No mitigation can pay for the magnitude of destruction to treaty resources for today and generations from now,” said Brian Cladoosby, the chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribe.
Many Native tribes understand the importance of protecting the land and its resources. The Oglala Lakota tribe of South Dakota, for example, has been fighting against the Keystone XL Pipeline which would transport Canadian tar sands oil through to the U.S. Gulf Coast. In 2012, tribe members held a protest in which they blockaded Highway 44, preventing tractor-trailer drivers bound for the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada from passing through.
“The threat to our drinking water is so enormous that any number of jobs, any kind of economic development, would be irrelevant when our water is contaminated without the possibility of being cleaned up,” said Debra White Plume, one of the protesters.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota similarly protested the Keystone XL Pipeline, and had even stated in February 2014 that they recognized the U.S. House of Representative’s authorization of the pipeline as an act of war. The Lower Brule Lakota Sioux Tribe of South Dakota also recently invoked a clause from the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 (the “Bad Men” clause) in order to prevent the foreign tar sands pipeline company TransCanada from extracting tar sands from the land. For these tribe members, no amount is worth sacrificing the well-being of the environment.
The Romero Institute, the umbrella organization to which the Lakota People’s Law Project belongs, is likewise very concerned when it comes to environmental rights. In 2007, the Romero Institute initiated a successful campaign to stop the California State Department of Food and Agriculture from spraying a synthetic pheromone which posed serious health and environmental risks to the Santa Cruz community.
The Romero Institute continues to bring awareness to both environmental threats and the dangers that corporate capitalism poses to the planet, and we greatly support the actions of these tribe members.
Unfortunately, there are many who oppose the actions of tribe members who wish to save their land. Throughout the world, the rate of environmentalists and indigenous peoples who are murdered is rising. This is an atrocity that must be addressed. It is important that the governments around the world put the lives and safety of their citizens and environment above corporate greed.
Please help us bring about awareness to this serious issue and support the tribes in their efforts to protect their land from energy corporations.
Visit the Romero Institute’s Facebook Page to learn more about our cause.