Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick set off a firestorm of controversy amongst northwest First Nations Friday after announcing a deal with Enbridge’s proposed pipeline project. The controversy culminated Monday with a group of Gitxsan, including some hereditary chiefs, claiming to have fired Derrick, chief negotiator, as well as negotiator Bev Clifton Percival, and negotiator and executive director Gordon Sebastian. However, the group may not have the authority to fire the negotiators, who were elected by a board, which has not yet weighed in.
Representatives of the group, which gathered in the street outside of the treaty office, claimed to have been blindsided by Derrick’s announcement last Friday that the Gitxsan had signed on to Enbridge’s Aboriginal Economics Opportunities Package. That agreement would see participating First Nations receive a share of 10 per cent equity in the pipeline, valued at an estimated $7 million for the Gitxsan, despite the fact that the proposed pipeline route doesn’t cross any traditional Gitxsan territory. Some of the representatives of the group, however, previously signed a document authorizing negotiations with Enbridge in 2009.
The announcement instigated a quick response from neighbouring First Nations, including the demand for an apology from Chief Wilf Adam of the Lake Babine Nation. Adam issued a press release on Monday, pointing out that the pipeline would not endanger any Gitxsan territory, while the Babine Nation’s territory would bear the brunt of any potential risks.
Thirteen Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation issued their own press release today, saying they have been “united like never before” to join with other First Nations that are opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.