Skeena Celebration

As my friend Yvon likes to say, victories in the conservation game are hard to come by. But after years of battling to keep Petronas, a giant multi-national corporation, from building an LNG plant on critical salmon habitat at the mouth of the Skeena River, First Nations and the conservation groups that supported them, had reason to celebrate: A clear win. Petronas gave up, bailed, and left pristine Lelu Island to the salmon and the people of the North. Above, a glimpse of the spectacular Skeena estuary as we drove through heavy rain and dark, roiling skies.

At Port Edward, the gathering crowd met a small flotilla of boats to ferry us out to Lelu. That’s Yvon and Spencer headed down the dock.

On Lelu, we gathered around a smoldering fire. As the singers and drummers started in, the rain began to let up and the sky lightened. A procession of chiefs and elders strode forward to bless the pole.

Then, with ropes and the strength of the assembled masses, the enormous, beautifully carved cedar pole was pulled upright. The clouds parted, revealing blue sky.

Great peeches were made, and cheers rose from the crowd. As if by magic, a brilliant sun beamed down on us from a bluebird sky. The pole now stands sentinel on Lelu Island, watching over the Skeena and marking the place where a great battle was won, warning others who try to harm the Skeena or its salmon that they will not succeed. Victories may be hard to come by, but they sure feel good when they happen. And what an honor to be a part of it. When we returned to Prince Rupert, the storm closed in again, as if on cue. I like to think it was our friend Bruce, who fought so hard for the Skeena, smiling down on us.

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