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(Many Paths)
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Kinder Morgan's Qs on Aboriginal Food Provokes Avalanche of Fish Photos
by Mychaylo Prystupa - Vancouver Observer

750+ fishing photos were sent in to viral social media campaign aimed at showing Kinder Morgan that its pipeline could threaten indigenous fishing areas

Hundreds of aboriginal people -- who apparently really love fish -- took the bait of an impromptu viral social media campaign to submit their favourite fishing pictures, following a Vancouver Observer story last week that reported that pipeline-giant Kinder Morgan had questioned how much a B.C. band still eats fish.

The fish tale began Friday when Kinder Morgan's lawyer had grilled a Kwantlen First Nation band councillor at a National Energy Board hearing in Chilliwack. The forum is gathering Aboriginal views on the proposed $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.

"Do you have an estimate in terms of what proportion of Kwantlen members' diet comes from sources in the Fraser River?" asked Kinder Morgan lawyer Terri-Lee Oleniuk.

Green Party of B.C.'s interim leader Adam Olsen thought the question was fishy, so he took to social media for reaction. He's also an Aboriginal man from Tsartlip First Nation.

"On Sunday morning, I tweeted out a photo of my smoke house – and said 'hey, share your fish photos with me. Let's show them what our diet is. I got overwhelmed by the response," said Olsen on Tuesday.

Hundreds of Fishing Photos Sent In

In just two days, he netted 750 photos from across B.C.

Olsen's new Facebook group page -- "Show Kinder Morgan your Food Fish!" -- has also been viewed 28,848 times. The photographs show native families hooked on fishing – from harvesting -- to processing -- to ceremonial uses.

There's a picture of a child with her fish-cleaning gloves on backwards; another of a girl kissing a salmon; and yet more of pantries stacked with fish jars. Most are new snaps from the 2014 salmon run, Olsen blogged.

He said the photos will form a part of his official submission to the NEB as an intervener in November.

A number of first nations leaders also said Kinder Morgan's fish diet question was casting in the wrong direction.

"I found it pretty amusing," chuckled Ken Watts, Vice-President of Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

Watts said "fishing is a way of life" for virtually all B.C. first nations – but especially in coastal areas, such as the 14 Vancouver Island bands he represents.

"In some of our remote communities that are fly-in, or gravel road only – just to get to a grocery store, it's quite an ordeal. So they rely on the ocean – they call the sea beds our garden," said Watts on Tuesday.

In response to the reactions that the company's question has spawned, a Kinder Morgan spokesperson said:

"We understand the question posed by Trans Mountain's legal counsel to the Kwantlen Nation may have interpreted by some as implying that Salmon is not an important resource to the Nation."

"We understand salmon is very important to Kwantlen Nation and many others for traditional, cultural, and commercial use."

"We value our relationships with all Aboriginal groups whose territory we operate in," wrote Ali Hounsell with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Oil Spills and Increased Tanker Traffic Worry First Nations

Several First Nations, including the Shxw'owhámel and Tsleil-Waututh bands, have told the NEB that an oil spill from the Kinder Morgan expansion pipeline would devastate their ability to fish.

The pipeline proposes to cross 474 waterways between Edmonton and Burnaby, and run alongside several large rivers in B.C., according to its application.

Kinder Morgan calculated hypothetical oil spill scenarios on the Athabasca, North Thompson and Fraser Rivers. The company concluded that oil spill effect durations were typically less than five years and "all rated negative environmental effects were considered to be reversible."

The project's five-fold increase in oil super tankers to 400 per year are also an Aboriginal concern.

PhD candidate Nick Claxton is from Tsawout -- one of the Saanich First Nations on the southern end of Vancouver Island.

He has made it his life's work to revitalize indigenous reef net fishing, and says the proposed Kinder Morgan route for increased tanker traffic cuts right through the middle of his people's traditional fishing area.

"It's a stationary fishery – we're anchored in canoes – so you can imagine with tankers going by, that would be very disruptive to our efforts," said the researcher.

A recent University of Victoria seafoods survey found coastal First Nations on Vancouver Island eat 15 times more seafood than the Canadian average.

Traditional harvesting also represented 89 per cent of their diets, with only 8 per cent of food coming from supermarkets, and 3 per cent from restaurants.

"My family – my wife and 3 kids – we eat 100s of salmon each year in different ways: smoked, canned, barbecued, baked, every different way," said Claxton.

The researcher is a presenter at an Indigenous Foods Conference that starts Friday in Ucluelet.

Vancouver Island will also see a Nov. 1st aboriginal fisheries celebration in Port Alberni, to mark a recent historic Supreme Court decision affirming native peoples' right to fish and to sell the catch.

The NEB hearing on Aboriginal views on the Trans Mountain pipeline continues in Chilliwack until Friday.

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