By John Ahni Schertow, November 20 2012. Source: Intercontinental Cry
On the Beautiful Widzin Kwa (Morice River): The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en people are winning the physical and awareness campaigns to stop the onslaught of some proposed pipelines from entering their unceded and occupied lands. Exactly one year ago, the Grassroots Wet’suwet’en of the C’ilhts’ekhyu and Likhts’amisyu Clans confronted, and escorted out, employees and drillers of the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) from one of the Wet’suwet’en territories which they call Tal Bits Kwa along the upper reaches of Morice River. Over the span of a year a lot has happened in that sacred area to ensure that the Wet’suwet’en Laws are adhered to and their lands are protected from further destruction.
In December of 2011, shortly after the PTP blockade the Gitxsan people, who are the Western neighbors to the Wet’suwet’en, boarded up the Gitxsan Treaty office Society because of a backroom deal that was signed with the much contested Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline company. The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en regularly visited and openly supported the grassroots Gitxsan who successfully blocked the entry to the office for an additional six months.
In January 2012 the neighboring Indian Act government body to the East called the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) were confronted during a “contractor’s meeting” that was being hosted by the PTP company. A message was issued to the contractors, industry and government representatives in that meeting which stated, “No Pipelines will be constructed through unceded Wet’suwet’en Lands. The Delgamuukw Supreme Court Case of 1997, which the Wet’suwet’en had won, does not make any reference to Indian Act Tribal Council’s or Bands. The plaintiffs in the case are clearly the Hereditary Chiefs and their members. 50% of your proposed pipelines are planned to be constructed through our unceded lands and you are attempting to avoid meaningful consultation with the true title owners. You will be stopped!”
Social Media sites were used as campaign platforms of Indian Act bodies to mislead constituents of the colonial and indigenous-colonial governments regarding the proposed impacts of a “Natural” gas pipeline through central British Columbia. Misleading information such as, ‘the gas is safe and clean’, and, ‘the same route of the existing pipeline of PNG will be followed to Kitimat’ were the selling points used by sell-out Indian Act leaders to their communities. The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en wasted no time and entered those sites and they continued spreading relevant information of environmentally decimating Hydraulic Fracturing processes in Northeastern BC and the catastrophic but preventable Tar Sands expansion in Northern Alberta. Many of the elected representatives of, what the Grassroots membership describe as, “the Indian Act puppet governments” hypocritically decided to openly condemn oil pipelines while quietly trying to permit Natural Gas pipelines onto lands which were not theirs to decide.
During the early Spring of 2012, speaking events organized by academic institutions in Denver Colorado and Vancouver BC began to help spread the word to professional academics and students. Public concern over the proposed impacts of these destructive projects began to spread like wildfire all over the globe. Supporters from all walks of life and all parts of the planet started writing to the Grassroots organizers and showing up to the territories which are under threat to offer their support and solidarity to the fight.
A log cabin, which was started in 2010, was finally completed construction in July of 2012, directly on the GPS centerline of the proposed pipeline corridors. Preparations began for a Grassroots Wet’suwet’en family to turn the cabin into a full time home. Influentially, more Wet’suwet’en families and friends began to assert the will of the membership against the will of the dictatorship-styled society act representation which fell under the name, The Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW). The OW’s reluctance to publically oppose and condemn the proposed PTP project directly contradicted the will of the membership, expressed in a 2007 Interest and Use study on the proposed PTP Pipeline project, which outright expressed the Wet’suwe’en people’s will to prevent all pipelines from entering the unceded lands. Information campaigns were waged by the Grassroots Wet’suwet’en to prevent the spread of misinformation and deceit against the larger population of Wet’suwet’en people and their allies.
In early August 2012 a hugely successful 3rd Annual Unist’ot’en Action Camp attracted about 200 people from all over North America and some European countries. The Forest Action Network out of Victoria BC fundraised and purchased a large school bus and brought 44 people from as far away as Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California to participate in a 5 day series of workshops. Workshops on Decolonization, Direct Action Training, Security Culture, Resistance Writing, Healing, and Cultural workshops facilitated by an amazing group of intellectuals and professionals helped forge new relationships between Supporters and Indigenous people from all over Turtle Island. For many who attended the camp it was described as a genuine life changing experience.
The Fall months of 2012 busied the organizers with a few road trips which took them to speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria. The “She Speaks” and the “Defend our Coast” events both heralded immense support from a diverse audience who were willing to learn more about the Federal and Provincial government’s Fracking and Tar Sands expansion agendas which the Grassroots Wet’suwet’en are stopping.
Camp life since the 3rd Annual Action Camp has been generously supported by many fundraising events across the continent and hands on support from supporters who moved out to the Unist’ot’en camp site. Despite daily flyovers from helicopters and finding hidden cameras along the road leading to the camp, work on the camp site has resumed and accelerated with many construction projects. The supporter community at the camp is continuing to grow and continued support with supplies and food are encouraged from many willing supporters from all over. The helpers at the camp have organized their own group and are encouraging other members of the public to join their numbers under the name, Community Allies Supporting Grassroots Wet’swet’en(CASGW). Their hard work is paying off as they continue to visit and correspond with many community networks who are willing to develop their own community based strategies to support the fight against pipelines in unceded Wet’suwet’en lands.
More recently, the OW issued a newsletter displaying motions made in a meeting back in August 1st, 2012, showing their signing of a Confidentiality Agreement and a Communication and Engagement Agreement between the OW and PTP. This revelation is creating an upheaval of unrest amongst the larger Wetsuwet’en population who were unaware of the signing of such agreements. To top it off, the OW have re-entered the BC Treaty process and have signed agreements with the BC Treaty Commission and the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations – this despite the decision by all Wet’suwet’en Clans in 2008 to unanimously opt out of the BC Treaty Process and begin assert their rights and title on and ancient jurisdiction belonging to them.
Despite the divisive tactics of industry and governments on the will of the people, the Grassroots Wet’suwet’en remain steadfast in their determination to stop all trespassing on their lands. As Freda Huson of the Unist’ot’en people states, “Indian Act and Society Act governing structures do not belong to us nor do they have the ability to override the jurisdiction of our people. If our people make decisions with our unborn populations in mind, the manipulative tactics by industry and governments which are meant to divide our people will not work. We will prevail as sovereign people on our unceded and protected lands.”
Hereditary Chief Toghestiy of the Likhts’amisyu states, “We are winning the battle with pipelines. Enbridge Northern Gateway has just moved their right of way 1 mile South of the Unist’ot’en camp. This just happens to be in the same place where our Wet’suwet’en ancestors have had homeplaces and numerous cultural trails. It is pure coincidence that we were already planning to construct new homeplaces for other Wet’suwet’en families in that exact same area. I guess they will have to rethink their evasive strategies and begin a genuine Free Prior and Informed Consent process with us for the first time. Our protocol to enter into our territories is a tough one for manipulative people to pass. I really doubt that PTP or Enbridge Northern Gateway will be able to answer the same questions that good and honest people have easily answered to be welcomed onto our lands.”
Mel Bazil of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan descent states, “The feelings of deceit and undermining from the constituents of the illegitimate government of Canada towards Harper is exactly what Indigenous people have endured since contact. As we all enter into an era of dramatic climate change and destructive agendas by multinational corporation-led governments we will all need to develop a unanimous strategy to ensure all of our survival. It only makes sense to us to follow Natural Laws like Indigenous people have since time immemorial.”