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Helen Knott Challenges Trudeau’s Broken Promises to First Nations in Powerful Poem

Poet Helen Knott challenges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's approval of Site C dam flooding of Peace River valley.
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In a video aimed at Justin Trudeau, activist Helen Knott (Dane Zaa and Nehiyawak from Northern British Columbia) walks the prairies of the fertile Peace River valley, while she deftly calls out the Prime Minister through spoken-word poetry for reneging on promises and commitments made to indigenous peoples in his last federal election campaign.

“Because your cabinet ministers and departments are sitting behind desks and signing off on permits, while you’re in the public eye paying lip service to Indigenous populations. Well y’all are making decisions that are going to be impacting the next seven generations. Doing so, in spite of Section 35 violations and signing off in light of supposed consultation,” Knott speaks in the video directed by filmmaker/producer Coty Savard (Dene, Cree and Métis). Check it out at

Despite years of adamant First Nations’ objections, in July the Trudeau administration approved two key permits that allow BC Hydro’s controversial Site C dam and hydroelectric project to move forward in Peace River, British Columbia. More than 60 miles of the Peace River and its tributaries, comprising traditional territories of numerous First Nations, are set to be flooded by the massive project. Traditional tribal territory and one of Canada’s most ecologically rich regions are at risk of becoming a reservoir. Peace River waters serve as spawning and wintering grounds for fish, while the wild boreal forest landscape provides critical habitat for wildlife — moose, elk, deer and bears.

Knott shares:

This land has been my people’s home since time immemorial. I don’t come from a placeless people. I come from spines that were made sturdy while sleeping on spruce bows, from lakes that grew strong by scaling the sides of these mountains, and from arms that were taught to navigate these waters that span out like arteries all across this territory. This land is my ancestors’ living memory.

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Beyond the ongoing fight to protect the Peace River valley, Canada’s First Nations are also engulfed in efforts to defend Lelu Island and the Skeena Estuary from the massive, controversial gas pipeline Pacific Northwest LNG project (PNW LNG), which threatens the island's valuable salmon habitat.

Knott makes it clear to Trudeau: First Nations people are not backing down.

“We’re going to continue to rise up like sage smoke carrying valley prairie prayers, just like we have done for the past 500 years. Because in case you haven’t noticed, in spite of everything, we are still here,” she says.

Follow Knott's blog here. Hear the full poem here.