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Dene chief: 'My nation will stop the pipeline'

It was going to be the biggest private construction project in history. But before a pipeline could be built from the Beaufort Sea to energy-hungry markets in the south, the impact on the North's people, economy and environment had to be determined. That task was given to Justice Thomas Berger, who embarked on an extraordinary three-year odyssey across the Arctic. His report shocked the government that appointed him, and was heralded by some as "Canada's Native Charter of Rights."

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The Berger Inquiry crosses Northern Canada, hearing testimony from hundreds of natives, Métis and white residents in every community it can reach. The most dramatic moment of the inquiry comes when Fort Good Hope Chief Frank T'Seleie gives an impassioned speech against the pipeline. He tells Foothills Pipelines president Bob Blair, "You are the 20th century General Custer. You are coming with your troops to slaughter us and steal land that is rightfully ours."
• Frank T'Seleie was a university-educated chief in his 20s, and sat beside Blair at the witness table. After the inquiry T'Seleie left Fort Good Hope in the Northwest Territories and went south. He spent time at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., then returned to the North. In 2002 he was chief again at Fort Good Hope, and a strong advocate in the new push for a gas pipeline up the Mackenzie now that most land-claim obstacles had been cleared.

• Robert Blair, who became a consultant in Vancouver, recalls arriving in Fort Good Hope and being told that the meeting was a "high security risk." Everyone else working on a pipeline application refused to attend.

• Blair denied the Custer association, but says he didn't take it personally. "I didn't mind the poetry of this. It was necessary to set up a symbol of danger to the North, and that was the symbol. I understood that."

• George Armstrong Custer was a U.S. cavalry officer who distinguished himself in the American Civil War at Bull Run, Virginia and Gettysburg. After the war he became famous (or infamous) for his campaigns against native bands in the American West. He eventually led his men to death in "Custer's last stand," fighting Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in the controversial Battle at Little Bighorn.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Aug. 5, 1975
Guest: Frank T’Seleie
Duration: 5:48

Last updated: May 28, 2014

Page consulted on May 28, 2014

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