The Indigenous occupation of northern British Columbia's Lelu Island began in 2015 on the site where Petronas proposed to build a liquefied natural gas terminal.
After Petronas abandoned its Pacific NorthWest LNG project two years later for market reasons, members of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe and supporters raised a totem pole on the island to signify their claim to the land, despite the territory designed as federal Crown land.
On a foggy October day, I traveled by skiff to the little island, waded through thick mud in my gumboots, until I arrived at a small knoll overlooking the inlet. Members of the Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, Gitga’at and Gitxsan Nation, as well as non-Indigenous people who had traveled from Wyoming, Oregon, California and New Mexico, worked together to hoist the cedar pole, carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray.
Days earlier, the killer whale adorning the top of the pole had been swept away by the high tide while the pole lay in wait—set free into the wild ocean.
LELU ISLAND TOTEM POLE