The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline deal has caused a major rift, and divided the Gitxsan First Nation in Northern B.C.
On Friday, Gitxsan First Nation hereditary chief Elmer Derrick and Enbridge jointly announced the $5.5-billion deal, saying the hereditary chiefs backed the project.
However, other Gitxsan chiefs are now saying the deal was not sanctioned by the Gitxsan people and they claim traditional protocols were not followed by Gitxsan negotiators.
"This is a turning point in our Gitxsan history," the chiefs say in a written release. "The Enbridge Pipeline holds no future for our children."
Lawrence Patsey, a hereditary chief with the Fireweed clan, told CBC News the two negotiators behind the pact and the executive director have all been fired.
"As of [Monday], their positions were terminated as per the wishes of the hereditary chiefs. Office operations have been suspended until a review by the hereditary chiefs."
'Very concerned' a deal had been struck
Patsey said the chiefs had to act.
"Our negotiator didn't have a mandate to sign a deal with Enbridge," he said. "The first we heard of it was on Friday and we were very concerned at that time a deal had been struck without the consent of the hereditary chiefs and the Gitxsan [First] Nation."
Gitxsan First Nation hereditary chief Norman Stephens says there are more communities against the Enbridge project than for it.
"It brings great embarrassment to us as Gitxsan to have Elmer Derrick ... along with Enbridge announce that they are in support of the pipeline," he said, referring to Friday's announcement.
"It does nothing for the credibility of the Gitxsan. We have to be good neighbours. The impact for our neighbours is going to be far greater than what we would have if there was actually a leak on one of the neighbouring territories."
Undermining the opposition
Stephens says no agreements should be signed before an environmental review has been completed.
"It doesn't make any sense. Like, why would you do it now? Why not wait until the review process is completed, and you can actually see what the impacts are? This seems more geared to undermining the declaration by the 61 nations who are opposed to the pipeline."
Patsey says it is not clear what the deal entails and how they can get out of it, but said the Gitxsan are firmly opposed to the pipeline and will fight to rescind the deal.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would run from Alberta's oilsands to the B.C. coast, carrying oil to tankers for export to the U.S. and Asia.