Environmental Assessment

Indigenous nations are constantly faced with different proposals requesting extractive activities on their traditional territories. These development proposals raise countless questions for nations to answer.

What are the proper steps to take in the decision-making process? Who from the nation needs to be involved? What information is needed before deciding?

Indigenous nations have their own laws to answer these questions, and those laws can provide guidance when creating modern environmental assessment processes.

Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs

The Lax’yip (territories) of the Gitanyow peoples are located in the middle-Nass Watershed and upper Skeena Watershed (Kitwanga and Kispiox Rivers). As a matter of Gitanyow Ayookxw (law), the Simgigyet (hereditary chiefs) have the right and responsibility to possess, manage, protect, and pass on the land and water of their Wilp territories in a sustainable manner from generation to generation. This responsibility to protect land and resources for present and future generations provides the foundation for the integrated social, ecological, economic, legal and cultural system of the Gitanyow.

In order to ensure that projects and activities in their territories uphold Wilp sustainability, the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs are creating their own assessment process that reflects the Ayookxw. Lawyers from West Coast Environmental Law are providing legal assistance with the development of this Wilp Sustainability Assessment Process.

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Independent Assessment of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project

In May 2015 the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the “People of the Inlet,” released their landmark independent assessment of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project. The assessment, one of the first of its kind, is grounded in unextinguished Tsleil-Waututh and Coast Salish Law (snəwayəɬ) and backed by cutting-edge scientific and anthropological expert evidence.

Based on the findings of the assessment, Tsleil-Waututh Nation have withheld their free, prior and informed consent for Trans Mountain, meaning that any other approval is a violation of their inherent and constitutionally-protected rights.

To view the Tsleil-Waututh’s Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain assessment report, visit the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative website.


Gitga’at First Nation plans to use their adaawx (oral histories) and ayaawx (laws) to develop a process for assessing projects and other proposals that may impact Gitga’at territory. In 2017, the RELAW team met with community members in Prince Rupert and Hartley Bay to learn about their understanding of traditional decision-making processes to begin this law-making process.