Posted by: Aandeiyeen | March 17, 2015

Council of Canadians Report on Drinking Water in Canada

According to this report, British Columbia takes the lead in water advisories in 2015. Due to weakened Canadian environmental laws/regulations and rapid industrialization, this trend is likely to continue. It seems as though clean water and community health has become the sacrificial lamb for the sake of short-term gain of big corporations.

Turtle Talk

Report here. Website here.

On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis in Canada is a report by Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui that provides an overview of the drinking water advisories in effect in each of the provinces, territories and in First Nations. As of January 2015, there were at least 1,838 drinking water advisories in effect, including 1,669 drinking water advisories in communities across Canada and 169 drinking water advisories in 126 First Nation communities. It also provides a summary of the threats to drinking water sources across Canada.

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Posted by: Aandeiyeen | February 25, 2015


“An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines–at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska–has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the Aug 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mt. Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

Take action to help protect our rivers, jobs, and way of life, at”

Posted by: Aandeiyeen | February 4, 2015

Mount Polley spill: Search warrants executed at Imperial Metals

Warrior Publications

Conservation and fisheries officers execute search warrants Tuesday night at the offices of Imperial Metals, the owners and operators of the Mount Polley mine. (CBC) Conservation and fisheries officers execute search warrants Tuesday night at the offices of Imperial Metals, the owners and operators of the Mount Polley mine. (CBC)

B.C. Conservation Service conducts joint investigation involving RCMP, Environment Canada and Fisheries

CBC News, Feb 03, 2015

The B.C. Conservation Service executed search warrants at the Mount Polley mine and the Vancouver offices of its owner Imperial Metals Tuesday night, in relation to the spill of 25 million cubic metres of waste from the mine’s tailings pond last August.

Insp. Chris Doyle with the conservation service said the search warrants were issued to support a joint investigation by the B.C. Conservation Service, the RCMP, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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In Tlingit culture, it is customary to introduce yourself by stating who you are related to and where you are from. We acknowledge relationships so those listening know how they are related to the speaker. We also acknowledge local clans whose lands we stand on and thank them for allowing us to be there. This conscious awareness of relationships traditionally made Tlingits conservationists. Natural surroundings help define who we are, how we live our lives, and helps determine our relationship to our environment and each other. We are a place-based culture due to the bounty of the land. There is a Tlingit say: “when the tide is low, the table is set“. We live on a rich and healthy diet that has proven health benefits which exceed store-bought processed foods. But traditional foods are important not just because of nutritional benefits. Many values are associated with traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering. To repeat from a previous post, below are a few illustrative examples of such values:

  1. Respect. Respect for the land; respect for the clans that manage certain areas; respect for resources that have given themselves to us for our nourishment.
  2. Sharing. We share our harvest with family, with elders, with those that cannot hunt for themselves. As another saying goes, “if we do not share, the food sticks in our throats.”
  3. No waste. We do not take more than what is needed, which is a basic conservation principle. Proper stewardship and respecting the limits of the land were acknowledged because if we offset this balance, we would destroy what we depend on.

Technologies and methods used to harvest, fish, and hunt may have changed but the values remain. We must keep these values in mind when managing lands, waters, and ourselves.

Traditional Relationships to Lands and Waters
Indigenous peoples have occupied their territories since time immemorial and have established ways and means of relating to each other and to the land. This relationship is based on a very pragmatic understanding that if we fail to consider what the environment has to offer and that we must respect its limits – we will cease to exist. Lands are a link to our ancestors and the legacy we will pass onto future generations. As indigenous peoples, respect and responsibilities guided our conduct for we cannot envision our existence without the lands and waters that nourish us.

To uphold our values and ensure responsible stewardship, clans required permission prior to going onto another clan’s territory. Yet under current land management, foreign corporations can enter into our ancestral territories without permission from the local communities – those whom have the strongest relationship to the land and will experience the brunt of any associated risks from development.

Land Management: Property/Commerce under a Western paradigm
It’s a long-standing assumption that Western style development, political structures and governing documents, and lifestyles are the world’s singular shining example of “progress” and that all societies should aspire to these standards. Yet the health of the planet has been compromised by these practices which are based on a false belief that the earth has unlimited capacity to absorb pollutants and that land can be modified/manipulated to increase its capacity.

Laws are supposed to be a codification of a society’s values – agreed upon principles on how citizens conduct ourselves and our affairs. Our decision making process shows how we value and view the world around us. In the United States, environmental laws are written by Congress under the authority of the property and commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution. Federal agencies responsible for promulgating regulations to enforce these laws are crafted through a property/commerce lens: this is how land is seen and valued. Land is seen as a passive, non-living entity whose resources need to be harnessed to have utility (and therefore purpose/value) for human beings. For Western society, protection of humankind (which extends to corporations which are considered people too) is first and foremost. Protection of the environment and non-human communities are deemed important only if doing so does not have adverse impacts to the cash-economy.

Multiple Use Management and Conflicting Values
Through a variety of means, such as executive orders and legislation, Tribes throughout the country had ceded lands to the United States. Here in Southeast Alaska for example, the Tongass National Forest was established by presidential proclamation without input from the affected communities and particularly not with the clans and tribes. These lands are considered publicly owned and are managed primarily under a “multiple use” policy. This naturally leads to conflicts over how land ought to be utilized and how to ascribe its values. Western society focuses on the desires of the current moment and justify these decisions with a false belief that technology will evolve to fix problems that result from wanton consumption, rather than addressing the values and behaviors that drive this consumption.

Improper land management will continue to erode our communities’ sovereignty, cultural existence, and well-being by destroying our traditional resources. When we separate ourselves from the environment that sustains us and view it solely as property/commerce, we lose the understanding that it is our responsibility to maintain a balanced relationship to the natural world. We fail to appreciate something so precious, such as clean water or salmon, and their values when we distort or diminish that value by seeing the world through a commodity-lens.

We need to look towards alternatives – including the governing principles and guiding values that came before us.

Bill of Responsibilities
It’s unfortunate that in the United States we have a Bill of Rights but not a Bill of Responsibilities that address how we interact with our environment and each other. This was something the Tlingit had embedded in our culture through our values system. For example:

  • Acknowledging the need for responsible environmental stewardship
    • Our livelihoods and well-being depend on responsible and well-calculated environmental management to not off-set the balance of ecosystem
  • Family/Community come before individual entitlements
    • Status and wealth was determined by how well you could provide for others
    • Future generations must be considered during decisions

These weren’t simply traditional protocols – this was tribal law. Values such as respect, sharing, and do not waste were foundations of how we governed ourselves and determined our relationship to the environment. Within this governing framework, we cannot view land solely as economic opportunity and property – especially for the short-term and with limited benefits to an elite few. Further, under this framework that is based on relationships, we cannot talk about environment and humans separately. We can only acknowledge that we are part of the ecosystem. This should be self-evident but it’s difficult to appreciate when environmental laws and management are framed under a property/commerce principles, thereby placing all of the environment under human control and for our economic benefit in a cash-economy paradigm.

We need to look at both the past and towards the future during our decision making and carefully evaluate what values should guide that process. As a species, we cannot claim any entitlement rights when it comes to the environment. Based on a pragmatic understanding that community welfare and particularly out of respect for future generations, we only have responsibilities to the environment.

Warrior Publications

Taku River Valley, Tlingit territory. Taku River Valley, Tlingit territory, area in which the Tulsequah Chief Mine is being established.

The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015

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Tlingit and Haida ancestral territories and ways of life
The Tlingit and Haida nations’ ancestral territories cover all of Southeast Alaska and portions of the Yukon Territory and British Columbia. The border between the United States and Canada was not of indigenous creation and we Southeast Alaskans still have family ties in the Yukon and British Columbia. Two other things do not acknowledge this political border: salmon and pollution. Our peoples’ food security, cultural existence and traditional way of life depend on clean water and salmon that are still bountiful in this region. Traditional hunting and fishing will continue to the backbone of our cultures and economies, provided that our ancestral land is respected. Yet large-scale mining in British Columbia could threaten water quality and essential salmon spawning habitat that our communities depend on.

What’s going on in British Columbia?
British Columbia (BC) is experiencing a mining boom at breakneck speed without second thoughts about the long term environmental risks. BC Premier Christy Clark is pushing for developing eight new mines and expanding existing mines throughout BC, effectively turning the province into a large mining district with no regard for salmon and other values this place has to offer. Six proposed mines are located on the headwaters and tributaries of three major transboundary rivers – namely the Taku, the Stikine, and the Unuk Rivers – that flow out of northwestern BC and into Southeast Alaska. The completion of the NW Transmission Line, built solely to provide cheap power to several mining proposals, has led to rapid industrialization of the region. In addition, a weakened federal Canadian environmental review process and defunding of environmental agencies have resulted in streamlining the permitting process for mines. The recent Mt Polley Mine tailings dam tragedy and the continued contamination of the Taku River from the abandoned Tulsequah Chief Mine attest to the real threat that large-scale mining and the lax standards and enforcement pose to the surrounding communities.

What are the regional concerns?
These proposed mines have raised concerns about the impacts to water quality, salmon, food security, community health and cultural existence on both sides of the border. The Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers are important to customary and traditional (“subsistence”) fisheries and also supports Southeast Alaska’s $1 billion commercial fishing industry. Each proposed mine as high potential to create acid mine drainage that could impair salmon and other important subsistence species such as hooligan. In addition, the average life of these mines range between 20 to 50 years, yet water treatment is estimated between 200 years or more likely in perpetuity. We have to stop and ask ourselves – is this the type of legacy we want to leave behind for future generations?

Despite these areas being traditional Tribal and First Nation territories, despite the existence of Tribes as sovereign entities, under Western law we are treated simply as stakeholders if we are invited to be engaged in the process at all. As peoples of the land, we are not simply stakeholders, we are what the stakes are being driven into. Yet to date, despite bearing the brunt of the environmental risks, the Southeast Alaskan Tribes have been not been consulted by the BC government or the mining companies and have been left out of the BC/Canadian regulatory and permitting process.

Tlingit and Haida are matrilineal cultures who inherit our identities through our mothers. As a woman of child-bearing age, the conversations that go on between my ovaries, heart, and brain are overwhelming at times. What kind of world will our children inherit? Will my future cubs be able to derive the same nourishment from this land as their ancestors did? What kind of ancestors will our generation be remembered as if we choose to do nothing in response to these threats?

We are not canaries
Clan leaders, community/civic leaders, and tribal councils: you have the honor and responsibility to protect your community’s health and wellbeing, including those ancestors yet to be born. As Indigenous peoples, we have remained resilient in the many faces of adversity. We cannot stand idly and allow for these mining projects to go forward when they have not consulted with the Indigenous Peoples and if the projects cannot be done in a manner that is respectful for current and future generations. As First Nations and as Alaskan Tribal governments, we have the ability to harness our government-to-government power to ensure that Canada and the United States protect our tribal interests. I would love to see our Canadian relations work together with the Alaskan tribes to protect food security and cultural existence. No monetary value can be place on our cultural heritage and ancestral lands because these are more precious than gold. No community, present or future, deserves to be the proverbial canary in the gold mine.

Posted by: Aandeiyeen | December 4, 2011

If Disney was a bit more accurate…

Someone did a brilliant editing job using Disney’s Pocahontas and Corporate Avenger’s “Christians Murdered Indians” (look them up if you haven’t heard of them before; highly recommend), although the disclaimer was unnecessary.

It’s important to note that while few First Nations in the United States were militarily conquered, manifest destiny and colonalization still impacted all First Nations and continues to do so (despite what some ‘leaders’ may claim).  It will be quite the healing process to decolonize and reassert ourselves as sovereign, thriving Indigenous Peoples by our own terms.  But I have confidence that that day will come.

Posted by: Aandeiyeen | July 12, 2011

Yakutat Forelands mentioned in SSIF blog

Yakutat has the support of the Sacred Sites International Foundation and its members.  Check out a recent article on their blog, which highlights some of our concerns about mining in the Yakutat Forelands.


Posted by: Aandeiyeen | July 8, 2011

Mining activity in Taan ta Kwaan country

“‘Don’t forget that your ancestors are still there.'” a quote Willie Jackson, a member of the Taan ta Kwaan, remembers from his mother.  He stressed that “even if we are not living on Duke Island, we are still connected to it today.”

—memorable quote from a meeting I attended with the Ketchikan Indian Community Way of Life Committee and the Tongass Tribe president this past February about mining activity in our ancestral lands.

Duke Island (Tlingit name is Gix), located south of Ketchikan, is a culturally significant place to the Taan ta Kwaan whom are known as the Tongass Tribe- the very people this National Forest was named after. There are 55 known archaeological and historic sites within the Duke Island area; including villages, burials, shell middens, fish traps, fort sites, battle grounds, fish camps, an abandoned customs house, housesteads, old trapper cabins, and light house.  Needless to say- rich history that is valued well beyond any dollar amount!  This land has been listed as eligible for listing as a “traditional cultural property” in the National Register of Historic Places.

Since 2001, Quaterra Alaska Inc, a Canadian junior mining company,  has staked state and federal mineral claims on Duke Island to search for copper, nickel, and platinum.  Here again, we find ourselves at odds with the federal government agencies that are responsible for the management of our ancestral lands and are obligated to cater to the antiquated Mining Law of 1872.  A resolution to protect Duke Island passed in 2008 by the Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp stated that “the development for these commercial activities tend to endanger the many cultural, heritage, spiritual and traditional uses of the area; and these activities are viewed as disrespectful to many of the Native communities’ ancestors.”

It’s important to note that obtaining a traditional cultural property status does not mean an area is protected from mining activity and other types of development.  It adds “minimize and mitigate damage” provisions to the development project but it is not enough to halt a project altogether.  We must therefore stand united with our Taan ta Kwaan relations to support their efforts to protect Duke Island and assert to the world that this is not a place for a mine.

Posted by: Aandeiyeen | June 30, 2011

Yakutat Forelands photos

These photos were taken in May 2011 on my way to Dry Bay.  Who looks at at a landscape like this and thinks of $$$?  No monetary amount can ever express how much this land and its history means to our community.  Pardon our inability to view the world constantly through a cash-economy paradigm.

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