We’re down to just four days until the ban on Shell drilling for gas in the Sacred Headwaters will be lifted. Are we are on the brink of a watershed moment, or are we about to pour more fuel on the on the firestorm that is already brewing around energy development in British Columbia’s northwest?
The story of the Sacred Headwaters struggle began eight years ago. This is a story of First Nations and small communities uniting together to stand up to one of the biggest corporations on the planet, Royal Dutch Shell. It is a story of the struggle to protect a wild place where three critical salmon rivers are born out of a biologically rich, yet little known corner in northwest British Columbia.
This incredibly remote region of the province, with few inhabitants, became the centre of international attention when Shell threatened to transform one of our nation’s treasures – the Sacred Headwaters – into an industrial checkerboard of gas wells, pipelines and roads.
It all started with the courageous Tahltan First Nation who stood at the crossroads and blocked Shell’s access into the Sacred Headwaters – a sacred land for the Tahltan. Fifteen people were arrested, including nine Tahltan elders. News of Shell’s plans trickled downstream, and the opposition grew to hundreds of residents in communities taking to the streets in protest. Communities along the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine Rivers were united in saying “no” to dirty energy and fractured landscapes, and “yes” to wild places, clean water, wild salmon, and environmentally responsible jobs.
We wanted the world to hear these voices. We wanted the world to hear the story of their struggle against Shell. And so ForestEthics Advocacy reached out to our supporters for help.
Wow, what a response we got! Nearly 100,000 people—from Australia to Amsterdam, from South Carolina to South Africa—answered our call to action. The Tahltan and local communities in northwest British Columbia had tens of thousands on their side.
We brought this message and all of their voices to the offices of government and to the boardrooms of Shell. We forced the government and Shell to the table.
And today, we wait for the outcome.
I am optimistic that the British Columbian government and Shell will not ignore the voices of the First Nations and local communities, and the international spotlight supporters have shone on the Sacred Headwaters.
I haven’t hung up my boxing gloves just yet, but I am shining up my dancing shoes and hoping for a great victory for communities and wild places.