William Housty Addresses NEB on Heiltsuk Culture, Threat of Oil Spill


30 year-old William Housty’s powerhouse presentation to the National Energy Board’s Enbridge hearings in his community of Bella Bella. William describes the history, language and culture of his people in fascinating detail – and how the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and Tar Sands supertankers transiting the waters of his people’s territory would destroy their traditional way of life. A must-watch!



About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

10 thoughts on “William Housty Addresses NEB on Heiltsuk Culture, Threat of Oil Spill

  1. I believe the Koch Bros and the Rothchildren are behind all this infamy, bribing or even buying politicians in all parties. These pirates are allowed to carry on thanks to their ownership and control of the media (ergo, propaganda) and they are abbetted by a majority of insentient, braindead and dummied-down voters who are addicted to so-called reality shows on Tv or video games.

  2. God bless William for standing up for what I believe most citizens of BC hold valuable. The Harperites have grabbed a tiger by the tail. This is a truly toxic government in the pocket of big oil. It is grand to see an alliance of all citizens led by First Nations opposing the suicidal approach to energy exploitation demonstrated by the troglodytes populating the Tory government. Follow the money and see who has funded the Tories.

  3. The coal industry on Vancouver Island is an old industry. Resource industries is what brought the settlers to Canada….what will the Settlers live from if there is no resource exploitation. Resource exploitation rises and falls with the demand in other parts of the world. As settlers that needs to be understood…in the contexts of our relationships to Aboriginal people….no one is exempt from the need for food, drink and shelter….we are all in this together….except for the Aboriginal people of the land whose very voices and language are bound to the territory….beware….

  4. An articulate expression on behalf of people that would be most affected. As usual, the destroyers intend to impose massive changes to create wealth for a few who will then hide their wealth in Luxembourg, Bermuda and other tax havens.

    If First Nations and other people of north and central BC need any reminder of what lies ahead, examine the experiences of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. They’ve been poisoned, relocated, disrupted and lied to about the effects of mining and transporting bitumen. Capitalists extract billions of dollars while people of Alberta’s north get slow agonizing death and destruction.

  5. Ethnography is the study of the knowledge and system of meanings that guide the life of a cultural group, and ethnographic history, as you might expect, looks at history through this lens. William Housty relies on this historiographic tradition as he presents oral testimony to the Joint Review Panel that’s examining the Northern Gateway proposal. His testimony begins with song sung outside the hearing venue and moves to storytelling once he moves indoors. His stories are about song, dance, the nature of belief, the potlatch ceremony, what it is to speak his language, harvest traditional foods and medicinal plants, conduct trade with other First Nations, and, yes, tell stories. Wanting to show the connection to the land and sea that his people have always known – the land and sea that will be at risk if the Northern Gateway is allowed to proceed – he tells the Joint Review Panel about the origin stories of his people, the stories that explain how and why the natural world was created for the benefit of his ancestors. Housty knows what he’s doing. He knows that these stories justify his people’s existence on the land, and prove his people to be the owners and the first ones to inhabit it. Ten to one he knows that in the mid-1990s, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ruled in favour of the Saramaka people of Suriname, who used the same historiographic strategy when claiming their right to the land. The origin stories of the Saramaka proved without doubt that the land belonged to them, and, along with the land, all the natural resources. Housty’s intention is a little different. Rather than wanting to prove ownership of the land, he wants to prove that the land and the sea are indivisible from his language, from his culture – from the set of rules, customs, and practices that are used to govern his people – and that the land and the sea are ultimately indivisible from the identity of his people and from the people themselves. If the Northern Gateway pipeline is allowed to proceed, the inevitable oil spills that will result will ruin land and sea and will be, he argues, the genocide of his people. His conclusion is therefore wholly reasonable and one that all people should support: he will fight to the death to prevent the pipeline from going through.

  6. There is a time for Youth to step up to that podium, to this Seat of Responseability, truly supported, loved, respected and honoured by their Elders, their Ancestors, and Lineages of their Lands. This is a Legacy being activated and lived fully at this crucial time of Mother Earth! This young man is living according to his totems, according to his initiations, according to the lessons learned from his humility and surrendering to Old Ones’ stories, language and ways. He is our Teacher, the Teacher of those who are heading Kindermorgan and Endbridge for disrespect arises from children not being honoured or respected…. Youth not being initiated into Spiritual Traditions with ethically grounded principles. Young adults not sitting in councils, circles, lodges, trained through that modelling to be respectful and thus to learn resilience of the soul! May your spring berries and moss, your lichen and stones render the Teachings of Mother’s Love fourever for all our relations. Woman of Thunder and Lightning, of Many Antlers, One who remembers!

  7. Damien, we have a huge story on vancouver island,a coal mine is proposed near the small community of fanny bay and their shellfish industry that supports the town. This is a threat to the way of life for islanders and is not acceptable for any party to even think that this is a good idea.once this proposal is accepted there will likely be many more mines approved which would then affect the town of cumberlands water supply . where is david suzuki when you need him!

  8. Damien, thanks for standing up for our environment and our democracy. Your films are living history. This is so poignant. I loved hearing William Housty educating all of us about First Nations culture.

  9. Thank you for filming this, it will remain as a legacy of what Canada listened to, and acted on or failed to act on. It will determine how we as a human race respect each other, or how we allowed disrespectful people to impose their greed on us.

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