Jackie, Geraldine and Jasmine are a powerful trio! Chief Jackie and her cousin Geraldine were raised by their grandmother — strong women and long time activists who back in the days weren’t afraid to stand in the middle of the road to stop logging trucks from speeding down their streets threatening their children’s lives. Now Jackie, Geraldine, and Geraldine’s daughter Jasmine, carry on the struggle to stop industry from exploiting their land and people.
“My grandmother used to say ‘You never take out of greed, you take out of need’,” recalls Geraldine. Together the three have campaigned around the world to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and have formed a powerful alliance of First Nations, the Yinka Dene Alliance.
Jackie, chief of the Saik’uz Nation, told the delegation that Enbridge first came to their community in 2006. The community did their research – looking at the science and social impacts – and then decided to use the law to force Enbridge away. “But we knew they were going to come back with more money and try to divide our people,” said Geraldine. When Enbridge came back in 2009, the women had already started building a strong alliance with other First Nations in BC and that’s how the Yinka Dene Alliance came about.
Spearheaded by the Alliance, over 160 representatives of First Nations have now signed on to the Save the Fraser Declaration banning tar sands pipelines through traditional territories in the Fraser River watershed—a clear expression of unity and solidarity among the First Nations. They have lobbied financial institutions to support their treaty rights, submitted complaints to the UN, met with EU policy-makers and participated in the climate change talks in Cancun. And now they are getting ready for the great civil disobedience action to be taking place in Victoria, BC on October 22 to protect the biodiversity and coast of British Columbia.
But it’s not just First Nations working together. “This is the very first time in my lifetime and in the history of Canada that you ever see so many First Nations and non-First Nations working together. It’s never happened, not to the extent it is now. It’s a good feeling. You don’t feel like you are alone,” says Geraldine. Her daughter Jasmine adds, “as much as they’re trying to ruin our relationships, it’s just bringing us closer together. And that is the strength of this campaign.”
The women truly are a force of nature. They have seen the impacts of oil spills first-hand, having visited the Houma people impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill in the US Golf Coast. Their activism has opened their eyes to a world of injustice, particularly against indigenous people of this world, but it has also provided opportunities in sharing their stories and strategies. Geraldine asks the delegation: “It would help us if you would tell our story, our fight, what we’re trying to protect. It gives it credibility and the world has to take notice. I really believe our poor earth is on its last leg. I think we’re going to extinct ourselves with our greed and stupidity and arrogance and the earth will breathe a sigh of relief.”