Launching the canoes at Whey-ah-Wichen
Rueben George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and manager of the Sacred Trust Initiative, began the day with a welcome to the territory and gratitude to those that had made the day possible. We were then called to head out on the water in three 35-foot ocean-going canoes that we paddled as close as we could to get to the Burnaby TMX Westridge Marine Terminal. Near the giant oil drums, we rafted the canoes together as the matriarchs voiced powerful words, songs, and prayers to their ancestors and creator and offered sacred earth to the waters. We moved as one, paddling and singing together.
“We are Tsleil-Waututh, People of this inlet,” began Ruebens’s grandmother Xaliya (Ta7ah – Amy George). “We’ve been here for more than 30,000 years. We are the generation that our ancestors depended upon to take care of this inlet. We need to stop dirty tar sands oil.”
Over 30 billion taxpayer dollars are being spent on this dangerous pipeline and tanker project that puts the water, fish, salmon, orcas and human health at risk. Climate impacts with more frequent and intense storms, floods, landslides and wildfires only make this project increasingly vulnerable to a spill that would devastate the surrounding land and water. As part of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s own assessment of the proposed project, leading risk assessment exports from Simon Fraser University put the risk of a spill at 79 – 87 percent over a 50-year period, meaning the expansion is a direct threat to the Tsleil-Waututh community and way of life. You can read through it here.
“Thank you to the ancestors who never stopped looking at the water with love and never stop believing that we have a responsibility to live in harmony with the water, with the animals, the orca and the birds, the fish and each other. I have such gratitude to the ancestors and to the people who joined us today. Let us all paddle together” continued Xaliya’s granddaughter, Kayah George, who was recently featured on the front page of the Globe and Mail for her work with orcas.