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Spill to Sustenance

Six years on from the fuel spill that devastated Heiltsuk waters and clam gardens, the nation is pulling together to proactively build food sovereignty

Originally published on the Watershed Sentinel

by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales

The central coast rainforest, with its horizons of emerald islands roamed by wolves, orcas, and bears, is a source of life and wellbeing for all peoples who live there. The Heiltsuk Nation have lived off their land since time immemorial, and their culture is deeply rooted in the land and marine ecosystems. They continue to protect their relationship with the land against extractive industry and ongoing colonial practices that seek to eradicate Indigenous land stewardship.

In 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart tug ran aground, spilling over 110,000 litres of diesel oil in Heiltsuk waters of Gale Creek Pass. The devastating impacts on marine life and the surrounding ecosystem continue today, nearly six years after the spill. A healthy clam beach has yet to return, and the site remains a danger to the marine life, such as herring, salmon, and kelp, that once thrived there.

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