Wet’suwet’en solidarity protest
author: Ethan Williams | Contributor & former staff writer
Nation-wide movement building / Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons
Regina hosts social action
On Dec. 14, the elders of the Wet’suwet’en people of British Columbia provided a press release through the Office of the Wet’suwet’en discussing their concern with the National Energy Board’s decision of “denying the Office of the Wet’suwet’en’s request to participate in a jurisdictional challenge to permits issued for TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline project which, if built, will cross Wet’suwet’en House territories.”
The release also states that “Wet’suwet’en dinï ze’ & ts’akë ze’ (male and female hereditary chiefs) have been opposed to the project for years.”
The Coastal GasLink project, according to their website, is “approximately 670 kilometres” and aims to “safely deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area, to the proposed LNG Canada facility near Kitimat, B.C.”
The proposed pipeline, however, passes through Wet’suwet’en land. Wet’suwet’en land is unceded and has never been formally handed over to the government via treaties or other means.
“Wet’suwet’en House Chiefs have full jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en territory and have
not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink (TransCanada) to do
work on Wet’suwet’en lands,” said a document forwarded by Molly Wickham, a spokesperson the Wet’suwet’en people of the Gidimt’en clan.
“Gidimt’en are a clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and have full jurisdiction under our
law to control access to our territory – which is also supported by the UNDRIP Article
26.2,” the document also said.
The statement goes on to quote Article 26, subsection 2, which states the following:
“Indigenous Peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.”
However, in January 2019, RCMP arrested 14 people at a Wet’suwet’en camp. The arrests took place at a barricade called the Gitdumt’en Access Point, and were arrested for “allegedly failing to obey a court injunction that required the removal of a blockade,” according to Global News.
In a fact sheet about the Gidimt’en Checkpoint also by Molly Wickham, it is reported that “the Gidimt’en Access checkpoint is controlling access to Cas Yikh House territory within
the larger Gidimt’en clan territory at 44km on the Morice River FSR,” that “the collective House Chiefs made the decision to support Gidimt’en’s access point,” on Dec. 14, and that “the five clans ratified the decision in a bahlats (feast),” on Dec. 16.
The sheet also explains that according to Wet’suwet’en Law, “TransCanada has never received permission from the proper title holders to access any Wet’suwet’en territories,” that “Coastal Gaslink and RCMP would be guilty of trespass, should they try to force their way
onto Wet’suwet’en lands,” and finally that “each House Chief has the full jurisdiction to control access to their territories.”
In support of the protestors who were being forcibly removed from their land, a solidarity protest was held in Regina by Mother Earth Justice Advocates [MEJA]. According to Miranda Hanus of MEJA, “we had close to 60 people show up in the cold in front of the RCMP headquarters on Dewdney.”
“The RCMP is preparing to remove Wet’suwet’en protesters from blocking construction of a TransCanada pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C,” their media release on the protest claims.
“Mother Earth Justice Advocates calls on all peoples to send a strong message to the Government of Canada: that an attack on Wet’suwet’en unceded territory is unacceptable.”
“For many years the Wet’suwet’en Peoples have lived in peace and harmony on their traditional territory, creating a self-sufficient traditional community as they protected Mother Earth from the incursion of fossil fuel development and pipelines,” the statement goes on to say.
“That peace has been disrupted. Indigenous Peoples in Canada have agreements and Treaties in place to allow for all peoples on this Sacred Turtle Island to live side by side in harmony.”
“It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold these agreements and Treaties.”
Shortly after articles were released on the RCMP’s treatment of Wet’suwet’en peoples, it was announced that Canada’s name is proposed to be removed from the name “TransCanada Pipeline” and may instead be referred to as “TC Energy.”
The act is rumoured to “deemphasize Canada” according to Global News, to instead place focus on the pipeline’s benefits to the United States and Mexico. The aim of such a chance is to potentially sway investors who are leery of Canada’s involvement.
Another conversation stemming from the RCMP’s treatment of Wet’suwet’en peoples has to do with Canadians, and Saskatchewan residents in specific, discussing the similarities between the Wet’suwet’en protests to the events of Colten Boushie’s murder and the trial of his killer, Gerald Stanley.
“This past year we all watched the media portray a white land owner well within his rights, to shoot & kill a young Aboriginal youth, for reasons the white land owner was protecting his land from a trespasser,” a famous Facebook post from Regina resident Patty Kennedy states.
“It’s Ironic, that today the media plays out another portrayal; Aboriginal land owners, protecting ancestral, traditional land being forcibly removed by heavily armed military & tactical units. The same whites who thought it was ok that the white farmer was well within his right to kill for his land, want the government to forcibly remove, and even kill Aboriginals for protecting their land.”
“Oh what a fine line. Nothing logical here.”
The debates surrounding the RCMP’s treatment of the Wet’suwet’en people rage on, and solidarity protests for the Gitdumt’en Access Point have been popping up all over Canada.
The final comment made on MEJA’s media release statement summarizes their position.
“Such an act of violence as an RCMP attack on unceded First Nations territory is not reconciliation.”