Gitxsan and settlers together The fights to protect the Skeena River watershed

In an area as big as Switzerland with 60.000 inhabitants, to have a pristine nature is fundamental for the habitat of salmons, trouts, eagles, bears, moose and caribou. It's something to protect because it creates hundreds of jobs and gives the economy millions of dollars every year. "Protecting the environment is not simply leaving nature untouched - explains Shannon McPhail of theĀ Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition - protecting the environment means to use renewable resources, promote a local economy, revive culture and traditions. And these things, it's obvious, are incompatible with a devastation of the land through pipelines and mines".

North of Hazelton, the Gitxsan Territory includes the Kispiox Valley and the Skeena Valley for hundreds of kilometers without roads nor human presence. Some years back, the alliance between natives and settlers defeated Shell's mining project.

The Skeena watershed is crossed by several gas pipelines that would carry fracked gas to the refrigeration plants planned on the coast. According to the Gitxsan and the residents of the watershed, to block the pipelines means to prevent the disaster to the salmons, endangered by the industrialization of the coast.

Fragmented landscape in North East BC

Shannon McPhail doesn't like to be called "environmentalist". "Here at stake there is the survival of everybody, non only of trees and animals". She was a welder and a cook, and now works at the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.

A close friend of Shannon, Chief Gwininitxw of the Gitxsan First Nation has been fighting for decades against the unsustainable development of corporations and of the governments of Victoria and Ottawa. "Our people have to go back to our ancient culture that has been taken from us in the residential schools. Only through culture we can heal ourselves, we can save us and save the resources of our land".

The cabin on Makhla Didaat Lake was built with the support of environmental groups and with the help of some friends who sustain this occupation in the heart of Gitxsan Territory. Corporations have no access to the land.

South of Hazelton, less than 20 km of logging road from Highway 16, Madii Lii camp is another obstacle to the big corporations that are greedy to lay another pipeline. But here there are other activities going on: berry picking, canning salmon for the winter, smoking fish, going back to the land.

Madii Lii camp is the result of the collaboration between some Gitxsan First Nation and some Hazelton residents.

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