The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is furious over how its traditional territory was treated by a Red Bull film crew.
An online video posted to Red Bull TV on Aug. 20 was removed on Aug. 29 after outrage was sparked by the suspected use of petroleum products to set fire to a log in the middle of Kennedy Lake.
“On behalf of Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, we would like to publicly state our disapproval and outrage in regard to the irresponsible actions of ‘Who is JOB,’ sponsored by the Red Bull company, starring Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien,” read a statement issued by the Nation on Aug. 31.
“Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks demand a full investigation into this careless stunt, sponsored by the Red Bull company. Those who are found responsible should be fined the maximum penalty to support restoration of the watershed, as well they should offer a public apology to correct the miseducation promoted through the Red Bull video.”
The statement notes “Kennedy Lake and Kennedy River comprise a sensitive watershed and critical fish habitat,” and that the criticism Red Bull has received since posting the video could have been avoided had the company gone through proper consultation with the Nation before filming.
“We condemn the irresponsible use of flame accelerants or any petroleum products within our Tla-o-qui-aht Hawiih Ha-Houlthee—traditional chiefs’ lands/resources—for any reason,” it states. “Industries, governments and businesses need to respect wild salmon and protect our precious wild salmon resource, free from containments and pollutants.”
Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Elmer Frank told the Westerly News on Thursday that Kennedy Lake has “provided a resource for thousands of years,” and he was shocked to see it abused.
“I was disgusted and disappointed that that occurred within our territory,” he said. “If there was proper consultation, this could have been avoided…Most filming agents that do come in do go through the proper process of consultation with the Nation.”
He said Red Bull did not seek the Nation’s permission prior to filming and has not reached out to apologize since taking the video down on Monday.
He hopes the company apologizes and offers to help with the watershed’s ongoing restoration efforts but he doubted any contact would be made.
“We’re not going to hear from Red Bull,” he said. “They’ve already demonstrated that there’s arrogance there and I don’t think there’s going to be any compassion in terms of them feeling that there was wrongdoing.”
Frank said the Nation will increase monitoring efforts around Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks to prevent future incidents before they occur.