On the Monday show

In photos: The pipeline project on the Tsleil-Waututh’s doorstep

The Trans Mountain Expansion threatens an already dwindling orca population, with whose survival the First Nation sees itelf as intertwined

On a small tract of land in what is now called North Vancouver, the Tsleil-Waututh — meaning “People of the Inlet” — are on the front lines of an epic battle to protect the Coast Salish Sea.

It’s a fight they wage alongside their ancient comrades, the orcas that hunt in the Burrard Inlet, on the Tsleil-Waututh’s doorstep. These “wolves of the sea” have already become a rare sight, due to the threats they and other marine life have faced over the last two centuries of urban, commercial, and industrial development. The foe they now stare down — the “snake” of an enemy, as the Tsleil-Waututh call it — is the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a project that began as a private venture by the Texas-based Kinder Morgan, only to be purchased by the Canadian government in 2018.

The project will triple the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil each day. But an expanded marine terminal is expected to increase shipping traffic in the inlet by a factor of seven, with about 400 tankers passing through the port annually.

To the Tsleil-Waututh, their survival goes hand in hand with that of the sea wolves: if their whale relatives are wiped out, the same will happen to the tribe. On the other side of the American border, in Washington State, the Lummi Nation is similarly invested.

On this week’s CANADALAND, reporter Brandi Morin travels to unceded Coast Salish territory to explore the deep bond between the Tsleil-Waututh and the orcas, and the impact the pipeline expansion project is set to have on both:

Here is a selection of the photos that Brandi took in the course of her reporting:

The Trans Mountain marine terminal across the bay from Tsleil-Waututh territories
A warning marker near a Trans Mountain storage facility in Burnaby
Lummi Nation elder Jewell James with his totem carving of an orca mother and her bloodied baby
Ta’ha (Amy George) says she will give her life to protect her territories from the Trans Mountain Expansion: “I’m never gonna give up, I’m not gonna give in. And I’d give my life for this, for my future generations.”
Tsleil-Waututh canoers pass tanker traffic in the Burarrd Inlet.
The Burrard Inlet is nearly surrounded by industry — a Chevron oil refinery sits just across the bay from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Tsleil-Waututh canoers row past the marine terminal in their territorial waters.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation Administration building with the Chevron oil refinery smouldering in the background.
An Indigenized Time magazine amidst sage, a collection of ocean driftwood, and other items displayed in the home of Lummi tribal member Freddie Lane.
“Our people are coming out of a 500-year suffering. A 500-year Sundance. And when we come out of those sufferings, we come out stronger,” says Cedar George-Parker, standing at the Tsleil-Waututh watch house near a Trans Mountain storage facility in Burnaby.
Tsleil-Waututh Councillor Charlene Aleck paddle-boards on her ancestral waters. If she or other community members get too close to the marine terminal, they’re told to “back off.”
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