Editor’s Note: This is part one hundred seventy-three of a series of testimonies given by our aboriginal neighbors. We are posting these in an attempt to allow everyone to better understand just how badly Canada has neglected the first nations of Canada. These are the words submitted to the JRP Hearings, to Enbridge and to the Government of Canada.
ORAL STATEMENT BY MS. MERCEDES NEASLOSS
MS. MERCEDES NEASLOSS: (Speaking in Native language)
Hello, my traditional name is Hbuk’vas’tam-hyu which was passed to me from my great-grandmother Elizabeth Neasloss. The meaning of my name is “mother”, the one who holds the family together”. My childhood name is “lalagode” which means “butterfly” in the Haisla language. I carry these names with great pride and honour.
My English name is Mercedes Neasloss and I am 10 years old. I belong to the Salmon Clan. I am in Grade 4 and attend Kitasoo Community School. I have family all along the Coast, from Haisla Nation, Gitga’at Nation and Heiltsuk Nation.
My great-grandpa’s were Chiefs, Hemas Dudiwa Rodrick Neasloss Sr. and Smgigyet Hodimass (ph) James Starr. My baba is Smgigyet Getcon (ph), Ross Neasloss Sr. My parents are Roxanne and Darcy and I have a five year old brother, Jamie Neasloss.
I am here to speak for my generation and the next generations to come. I speak for the children of the West Coast. I also speak for the ocean and the animals that can’t speak, like the whales, sea otters, fish, seals, et cetera, who all call the ocean home.
We also have the most unique bear of the world in our forest, the Spirit Bear. We need to protect this precious bear from development that will negatively affect his home.
We are a remote coastal community and our livelihood depends on the resources the ocean provides. I love our ocean and the food we are blessed to harvest from the ocean.
We are very privileged to be able to go out on a boat and take in the beauty of what our land has to offer.
The ocean is Klemtu’s way of life. We depend on it for traditional resources and transportation. The tanker traffic would affect our traditional ways of traveling to surrounding communities for trading of our traditional foods.
I have grown up here watching and now helping my parents and grandparents harvest and preserve our traditional foods, such as cleaning and drying miya, salmon, peeling herring eggs, cleaning chuwali, cockles, jeeka, clams and prawns. These are the traditional — these are the traditions I want to preserve and pass on to my children and grandchildren.
On my eighth birthday, my family and friends went to a sandy beach in our territory to have a beach day. We travelled there by boat. On route, we watched a pod of nine killer whales. Two dove right under the boat we were on. That was such an amazing and memorable experience in my life.
I am only 10 years old but people always say I am wise beyond my years so, please, please, take my opinion and the opinion of my Nation into consideration when making the decision about Enbridge.
My name is Hbuk’vas’tam-hyu and I say “No” to Enbridge.
THE CHAIRPERSON: Mercedes, thank you very much for stepping up and presenting us with your oral statement.
It’s amazing the talents that we have a chance to observe as we have the opportunity to meet in communities and see people from all ages wanting to come forward and speak with us, and we very much appreciate the fact that you stepped forward to speak with us today. Thank you.
JLS ……For What It’s Worth