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Revolution is Alive: Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders Resist Canadian Invasion as Pipeline Projects Threaten Future Generations with Climate Collapse

For Canada, Genocide is “Essential Business”

Introduction

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Coastal Gaslink pipeline workers have continued to work on unceded Wet’suwet’en Territory without the consent of the Nation’s Hereditary Chiefs. Even after COVID-19 was identified in the CGL workers’ “man camp”, Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders have recorded pipeline workers failing to practice social distancing while workers rotate in and out.

Despite Canada’s declaration of national emergency and the provincial authority of British Columbia enacting a lockdown, the construction of Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline is being treated as “essential work.”

Observing the government & corporate willingness to endanger the health & safety of the Wet’suwet’en people by continuing pipeline construction during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Land Defenders remarked:

“We’re reminded of the smallpox blankets brought into our communities by European colonizers to intentionally spread a deadly disease.”

As made clear by the numerous American and Canadian place-names honoring Jeffery Amherst, this genocidal legacy of biological warfare against Indigenous Peoples is still being celebrated today. Amherst is the English Commander who notoriously advocated that the colonial army “send the small pox among the disaffected tribes” to “reduce” and “remove that Vermine,” targeting the entire population of the Shawnee and Lenape Nations, including women and children.

Whether Coastal GasLink ends up spreading COVID-19 to the Wet’suwet’en or not, the evidence makes clear that its man camps and pipelines spread the sicknesses of genocide and ecocide regardless.

Both testimony and studies show that the man camps established for pipeline construction are strongly correlated with the epidemic of murder and sexual assault targeting Indigenous women and girls across Turtle Island (North America). Even Canada’s Federal Inquiry officially established that the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG) crisis is a “genocide rooted in colonialism.” A shocking 76% of First Nations surveyed on Canada’s Indigenous reserves reported families directly impacted by this ongoing genocide.

The federal and provincial governments’ decision to allow this project to go forward despite its own tacit recognition of its genocidal character is now heightened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to these many ills, Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders have been warning all who will listen that CGL’s pipeline not only threatens their homeland, culture, and lives, but that of future generations as well. Having stopped the construction of five pipelines before this one, their defense of their homeland has so far prevented over 73 million tons of carbon emissions per year.

As our planet continues to undergo increasingly accelerating and devastating climate collapse, those who wish to protect future generations have much to learn from and support in the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders’ struggle to heal these ills.

The Unist’ot’en Healing Center

The Unist’ot’en are a part of the Wet’suwet’en’s Gilseyhu (Big Frog) Clan, one of the Nation’s five clans made up of thirteen houses.

In 2009, Unist’ot’en Matriarch Freda Huson (Chief Howihkat) founded the Unist’ot’en camp at Wedzin Kawh (the Morice River). The first cabin was built in 2010 and culture camps began shortly thereafter. In 2015 the Unist’ot’en Healing Center was constructed.

At the healing center, culture camps are centered around land-based activities including, hunting, canning/preserving food, fishing, gardening, hiking, berry picking, fireside chats, sharing the language and many other activities.

Johnny Morris, Gidimt’en Clan, poses with a wolverine in front of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre. Trapping and other land based cultural activities are part of Healing Centre programming. Photo by Michael Toledano

Wet’suwet’en tradition teaches a reciprocal relationship with all human and non-human beings rooted in mutual respect and care for one another and their environment. The healing center serves as an area to build these reciprocal relationships and offers a place for Indigenous persons to heal from colonial trauma. “Heal the People, Heal the Land” is a mantra for the healing center.

Land-based trauma and addiction treatment programs are central to the healing center. Through the land-oriented healing process, guests have an opportunity to form intimate relationships with water, fish, trees, and all other types of living beings.

Chief Huson’s camp also serves as a checkpoint before entering Unist’ot’en territory. Admittance to the territory is predicated around “Free Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC). The consent form “…is a request of permission to enter the lands of the traditional chiefs and matriarchs. Visitors are asked to identify themselves and their relationship to the hosts, as our ancestors did. Like a border crossing, the protocol questions make Unist’ot’en land a safe place. FPIC ensures peace and security on the territory.”

In this capacity, the checkpoint has served a healing function for the people, the land, and the atmosphere alike. As a manifestation of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs’ unanimous opposition to pipeline construction across their territory, the checkpoint’s denial of admittance played a crucial role in the Land Defenders’ success in preventing previous pipelines.

For Coastal GasLink to have pushed through this checkpoint in 2019 and 2020 and begun the construction of its pipeline required not only an unprecedented application of force, but also the systematic violation of Wet’suwet’en, Canadian, and International Law.

Whose Rule of Law?

When the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations blockaded loggers from deforesting their traditional territory in the late 1980’s, their resistance culminated in the landmark Delgamuukw v British Columbia case. This ground-breaking case was the first to allow oral histories as admissible evidence to prove Indigenous land rights over 58,000 square kilometers, including Wet’suwet’en territory.

In 1997, Delgamuukw versus B.C established that Wet’suwet’en territory has never been ceded or given to Canada, and that the rightful Wet’suwet’en titleholders were Hereditary Chiefs, who were responsible for administering communally held lands.

This finding affirmed the validity of Anuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), which pre-dates both Canadian and provincial law and grants Hereditary Chiefs full authority over their land including the right to deny entry to any and all pipelines. Under Anuk Nu’at’en, traditions and laws are passed down through song, dance, and/or ceremonies, and major decisions are made communally through a consultation process revolving around the feast hall.

Although five elected band councils of the Wet’suwet’en approved TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, under both Canadian and Wet’suwet’en law these officials only have authority over the Wet’suwet’en reserves, yet the pipeline does not pass through any of them.

Instead, it passes through the territory governed by the Hereditary Chiefs. And despite the fact that both legal systems require that each Hereditary Chief must be consulted about any development of their territory, no meaningful consultation has taken place.

Canada’s Indigenous Reserves and Band Councils were established together under the nation’s 19th-century Indian Act. This was a violent process in which First Nations were forcibly relocated, often completely outside their original territories.

Those who were relocated to reserves were moved to “Crown Lands” still deemed to be “Held by Her Majesty” and subject to the authority of Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. The Indian Act itself states that “No Indian is lawfully in possession of land in a reserve.” The extreme dependency of the reserve’s band councils upon the Canadian government both for basic economic services gives them very little autonomy to reject proposed pipeline projects without jeopardizing their residents’ access to basic services.

The establishment of these reserves was, in the words of Historian Keith Carlson, “an effort to extinguish Aboriginal title through administrative and bureaucratic means.” While First Nations assented in treaty agreements to share their lands with the settler newcomers if certain conditions were met, Making Native Space by R.C. Harris documents how Canada repeatedly broke its promises, using treaties and reserves as a pretext for taking land by force and allowing increasing settler encroachment on Native lands.

As described by the Canadian Governors in charge of this process, gunboats armed with cannons were staged and deployed against First Nations, destroying many villages that resisted and threatening countless others. In combination with smallpox deliberately spread by forced relocation violating quarantine, this colonial violence reduced the Indigenous population by 90% over a century.

As the gunboats of genocide were deployed against First Nations to “[fill] their minds with terror” and intimidate them into accepting forced relocation, these methods were deemed by one governor as the “best means of keeping these wild fellows in subjection” referring to those Indigenous persons who retained “most of their wretched and savage customs.”

Outside the reserves, these Indigenous persons were seen as living according to the “Law of Nature,” whereas the “Law of England” governed Canada’s settlements and sought to subsume First Nations via the “civilizing” mission of the reserve system.

Into the next century, the Canadian government passed legislation which continually appropriated more and more reserve land without prior consent or any compensation for various construction projects or minerals found therein. Meanwhile, traditional livelihoods and family structures alike were disrupted as families, houses, and clans were separated from one another and their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering areas.

Although new communities and networks for supporting cultural survival formed on the reserves due to the strength and determination of their inhabitants, the result of this process has nevertheless been high rates of poverty, substance abuse, suicide, unemployment, and mortality.

It is to heal the wounds of this violent genocide and disruption that the Wet’suwet’en Healing Center was built to renew the Nation’s connections with nature and community, rooted in their traditional homeland.

The denial of the Hereditary Chiefs’ standing, despite the Delgamuukw ruling’s recognition that they have authority over the unceded territory not governed as a reserve, shows how the racist mentality behind the reserve system’s fragmentation and forced relocation of First Nations is still in operation.

As Dsta’hyl, Hereditary Chief of the Likht’samisyu Clan remarked, the way that the pipeline project is “violating all the terms and conditions of the Delgamuukw court case, I think that basically is genocide in itself.”

Yet the Canadian Court stated in its injunction permitting the pipeline’s construction that Indigenous law is not “effectual” without recognition by the state, even after having determined in the Delgamuuwk case that the Wet’suwet’en’s right to their land was derived from “pre-existing systems of aboriginal law” and also ruling in Pastion v Dene Tha’ First Nation that “Indigenous legal traditions are among Canada’s legal traditions. They form part of the law of the land.”

What these different cases show is how contradictions within Canadian law are strategically exploited to:

1.  Affirm Indigenous rights and sovereignty, even to the point of recognizing ongoing genocide, in the name of upholding “reconciliation.”

2. Simultaneously deny Indigenous rights and sovereignty and continue to perpetuate genocide in the name of upholding “the rule of law.”

Photo: Unist’ot’en Camp

The legal aspects of this dispute shows a clash between two systems of law enforcement. While Canada still enforces the “Law of England” to perpetuate genocide and colonization, the Wet’suwet’en uphold Anuk Nu’at’en (or the “Law of Nature”) to heal themselves and their land and ensure the survival of future generations.

The importance of law enforcement to this dispute is  further highlighted by the central role played by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in repeatedly raiding Wet’suwet’en Territory to arrest Land Defenders and enable the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to begin.

The Violence of the RCMP

The first Prime Minister of Canada’s creation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or “Mounties” was inspired by the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British police force created to control Irish citizens under occupation.

“In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands,”  said Chief Huson on the history of the RCMP and Indigenous persons. “They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.”

In the late 1800’s, the RCMP were responsible first for carrying out the forced removal and displacement of Indigenous persons onto reserves, and then for the kidnapping of children living on reserves from their parents and putting them into “residential schools.”

Based on the U.S. Model, these “schools” sought “to kill the Indian in the child,” a sick euphemism for  horrific abuse and torture which carried a shockingly high death toll. 25% of Native children were killed in the “schools,” while 50-75% passed away shortly after returning home.

As Native children were strictly forbidden from speaking their languages or practicing their customs and traditions, these “schools” were part of a campaign of cultural as well as physical genocide. Disconnecting children from their culture was a systematic attempt to erase Indigenous ways of life across generations, which is what the Unist’ot’en checkpoint and healing center is reviving for residents and guests.

The controversy of the RCMP’s abuse of children continues today. The police agency stands accused in a class action lawsuit, sued for $600 million over its negligent and careless handling of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) cases. The plaintiff, Diane Bigeagle, knows the lawsuit won’t be resolved for many years, but she says “It’s not really about the money. It’s about what’s going to happen to the children.” These cases are part of a systemic crisis across Canadian society affecting Indigenous children. While only 7 percent of children across Canada are Indigenous, they account for nearly half of all foster children in the country – more than even during the apex of residential school kidnapping.

Institutionalized sexual misconduct runs rampant in the RCMP. The RCMP recently settled two class action lawsuits involving sexual harassment complaints from former female colleagues, paying out a massive $150 million to these victims as thousands of other women who also suffered abuse by former male colleagues have come forward as well.

This is how male mounties have treated their colleagues; what then of the Indigenous women and girls who have been subjected to centuries of genocidal abuse?

The RCMP has carried out many assaults against Indigenous Land Defenders protecting their land. An infamous example is the Oka Crisis of 1990, when Mohawk Land Defenders blockaded developers building a golf course over a sacred burial ground. The Mounties were called in alongside the Military to suppress the Mohawk Resistance. But with other Indigenous peoples and allies launching nationwide protests in solidarity, the resistance ultimately proved successfully in cancelling the project.

Now, we are witnessing the most recent example, with the RCMP trespassing into Wet’suwet’en territory and forcibly removing citizens from their territory, protecting corporate interests over the Aboriginal legal title to the Land.

After an interim injunction was granted for Coastal GasLink to enter Wet’suwet’en territory in December 2018, the Gidim’ten Clan established a new checkpoint along the path in support of the Unist’ot’en checkpoint.

On January 7th, 2019 RCMP was called in to enforce the injunction, arresting 14 Land Defenders at the Gidimt’en checkpoint.

Chief Huson described the RCMP’s militarized posture during the raid as a clear violation of international law:

Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly states ‘Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories.’ Any removal of Wet’suwet’en peoples by the RCMP, or any other authoritarian forces, has directly violated UNDRIP and the Trudeau government’s promise to implement UNDRIP.”

Further highlighting the contradictions underlying Canada’s legal relationship with First Nations, Canada ratified the UNDRIP the very same year it passed the 2015 “Anti-Terrorism” Act, Bill C-51 which criminalized Indigenous Land Defenders.

Bill C-51 gives the state greater legal and surveillance power against Indigenous Land Defenders, going as far as to label Chief Huson an “aboriginal extremist” for non-violently defending her Sovereign Land. The Canadian legal system has functionally made it illegal for First Nations to defend against invasion from foreign military forces (Canadian military and the RCMP), even as it binds itself to  international law which requires that it recognize this right.

RCMP documents revealing internal discussion between Mounties on using lethal force and/or snipers against the non-violent Land Defenders were leaked after the raids. The Guardian reported that police were given permission to use “as much violence as they wanted,” and that they were prepared to use lethal force in “sterilizing the site.” Additionally, it was revealed that Mounties were willing and ready to arrest grandparents and children.

About a year after the Gidimt’en checkpoint raid, late December 2019, a Canadian court authorized the RCMP to remove the Unist’ot’en Land Defenders in order to enable the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

On January 13th, 2020, RCMP established a roadblock on Wet’suwet’en territory. The roadblock’s purpose was to begin enforcing the court injunction issued the month before.

On February 6th before the Sun had risen, the RCMP moved into the media camp and pushed media members further back, preventing coverage of the ensuing raids. The RCMP proceeded to create an exclusionary zone, not allowing media or anyone else to cross the established police line.

Map of checkpoints by Indigenous Environmental Network

The following day RCMP moved further along the road leading to the Unist’ot’en camp, raiding the Gidimt’en checkpoint once again and arresting six Land Defenders.

On February 10th RCMP moved onto the Unistoten camp. With weapons drawn and in tactical military gear RCMP approached the camp to find red dresses  hanging on trees all around.

Photo: Amber Bracken/The Narwhal

The red dresses symbolize the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) across Canada, and were donated by families who have lost loved ones in this crisis. These are the same Women and Girls the RCMP is being sued for $600 million over.

With helicopters flying overhead and soldiers marching on the Sovereign Nation, the Unist’ot’en Land Defenders stood resolved and held their ground as many were arrested including Unist’ot’en Matriarchs Freda Huson (Chief Howihkat), Brenda Michell (Chief Geltiy), and Health Center Director Dr. Karla Tait. They were arrested while conducting ceremony for the MMIWG the red dresses symbolize, calling on their spirits to be present.

Victoria Redsun, a Denesuline Land Defender, stands in ceremony with Chief Huson and others as RCMP arrive at the Healing Center. Photo: Amber Bracken/The Narwhal

Environmental Impact of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline

As Indigenous Peoples have long been saying, violence against Women and violence against Mother Earth are deeply connected. The current violation of Wet’suwet’en Sovereignty began with the December 2018 court injunction to give Coastal GasLink workers full access to Unist’ot’en territory to build a 400-person “workforce accommodation” man camp.

After 14 Gidimt’en Land Defenders were arrested in the 2019 RCMP raid, permission was temporarily granted by the Hereditary Chiefs for CGL workers to enter Wet’suwet’en land, but only to take water and soil samples. Yet Hereditary Chiefs found more than 50 instances of permit non-compliance by CGL workers, as reported by Chief Na’Moks:

“They started clearing trees, building roads, put in a man camp. They absolutely abused the access which we had allowed.”

Coastal GasLink also failed to assess the potential impact on the $2 million healing center. Psychologist Dr. Karla Tait, Director of Clinical Services at the Unist’ot’en Healing Center, said that guests at the healing center were already being adversely affected by construction and traffic from pipeline workers. The likelihood of disruptions and concerns for safety will increase following construction of the man-camp in vicinity of the center. The healing center depends on the entire Wet’suwet’en territory being uncontaminated by industrial pollution.

The Unist’ot’en Healing Centre in 2017. Photo by by Smogelgem, Hereditary Chief from the Fireweed Clan of the Wet’suwet’en People.

The illegal CGL activities such as cutting down trees to clear a path for the pipeline and noise pollution from construction have also displaced local wildlife and destroyed cultural sites. The pipeline is slated to run directly beneath Wedzin Kwa – The Morice River – which several municipalities rely on in addition to feeding two major salmon-bearing rivers.

Although CGL has offered to bring potable water to the tribe if their pipeline contaminates the river, any possibility of river contamination is unacceptable to the Unist’ot’en Clan. In offering such ‘compensation,’ CGL is tacitly admitting the risk of water contamination. Both oil and gas pipeline spills are extremely frequent and highly hazardous to human and environmental health via deadly explosions, toxic pollution, and more.

The double pipeline spill which released more than 100,000 gallons of oil in 2017 across the territory and river system of the Ocean Man First Nation shows the direct threat these projects pose to the health and integrity of Indigenous land and water.

In addition, The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has already leaked hundreds of gallons of oil on multiple occasions. As with the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, the DAPL was built without consent on the land of the Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock Tribe, where Indigenous resistance was similarly countered with militarized police violence.

But while these examples of Indigenous resistance evoke ideas of protest, many Native land and water protectors emphasize that protecting their traditional homelands and its ecological integrity goes well beyond that:

It’s not a protest camp. This is us preserving our way of life and our land and water for future generations. We deserve a right to be healthy and strong in that future” said Dr. Tait.

Hunting is another aspect of the Wet’suwet’en way of life that has been negatively affected by the constructions disruption of land and water. Drilling and blasting along mountainsides have driven away  the Moose population, which the Wet’suwet’en had been carefully stewarding to increase the population numbers so a selective hunt could be sustainably achieved. According to Dr.Tait, “this past year we weren’t able to hunt at all with the presence of the CGL workers and with the disruption their activities were causing on the territory.”

Clear cutting forests, gas and oil pipeline/ development, and other human disturbances have also made it too easy for Wolves to prey on Caribou, an already endangered species. The increase of predators combined with deteriorating/ disappearing habitat have put massive pressure on Caribou herds, which have already gone extinct in the U.S.

Despite the B.C. Government releasing a statement indicating new measures to protect Caribou, no meaningful protective measures have been enacted. Logging has even been allowed to continue inside sensitive old growth forests, which CGL pipeline construction is set to accelerate with a further 613 hectares clear-cut or disturbed. An additional 579 hectares of Caribou habitat near Telkwa village would also be destroyed.

CGL and the B.C. government’s solution to this problem is to spend thousands of dollars to enact a wolf cull, a planned killing of 80% of Wolves in the area to allow Caribou populations to rebound. Yet experts have said that even a “successful” Wolf cull would require Caribou habitats to simultaneously be given time to recuperate, which is the opposite of what the continued habitat destruction from pipeline construction is doing.

Clear cuts from above the Anzac River Valley near the British Columbian settlement Prince George. These logging operations are taking place in critical habitat of the southern mountain caribou. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Once built, the pipeline itself would usher in even greater environmental destruction. The Coastal GasLink pipeline is slated to be a 670-kilometer (416 mile) hydrofracturing (fracking) gas pipeline, and would carry gas from Dawson Creek to the CA$12 billion “LNG Canada” terminal in Kitimat, in partnership with Shell, PetroChina, Korea Gas and Mitsubishi.

In addition to emitting CO2, fracking releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas which also contributes greatly to global warming. The current trends of natural gas production via fracking are rapidly accelerating an expected 2-degree increase in global temperatures within 10-15 years. Fracking has also traded off with alternative renewable energies, as investors have bought up land to drill for fossil fuels that were previously inaccessible instead of investing in renewable energies.

Fracking uses and pollutes massive amounts of water, while causing earthquakes to drastically increase in surrounding regions. As reported by Physicians for Social Responsibility:

“The data suggests with increasing certainty that fracking is causing irrevocable damage to public health, local economies, the environment, and to global sustainability.”

In denial of all scientific evidence, the new owner of TransCanada’s CGL Pipeline – American private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) – is greenwashing the project by misleadingly portraying it as reducing carbon emissions based on the empirically disproven fallacy that new fossil fuel projects will “trade off” with others.

KKR’s Global Institute – a kind of private intelligence agency – has been run by former CIA Director David Petraeus since 2013. His military command in Iraq and Afghanistan oversaw the genocidal suppression of anti-colonial resistance in those countries, tellingly referred to as “Indian Country” by the U.S. Military.

U.S. Army General David Petraeus as the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq prior to becoming head of the CIA. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Since joining KKR, Petraeus has worked closely with its billion dollar oil & gas portfolio, which played a leading role in fueling the fracking boom that made the U.S. the largest producer of oil in the world. Beset with conflicts of interest including bribes for state officials, Petraeus’ tenure has included KKR’s joint partnership with Energy Transfer. Energy Transfer owns and operates six gas processing plants and 700 miles of natural gas pipelines in Western Canada, but is notorious above all as the owner and operator of the Dakota Access Pipeline which was built through the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s Land without consent.

That KKR was brought in as the new owner of the CGL project shortly before the RCMP raid on the Unist’ot’en camp provides support for the Wet’suwet’en’s portrayal of the project as a strategy to “undermine the Wet’suwet’en” in the words of Chief Dsta’hyl and “get rid of us and they can do what they want here” in the words of Chief Huson. Documents seen by the Guardian “show close collaboration between the RCMP and TC Energy” (now owned by KKR), as “police officers attended company planning sessions and daily ‘tailgate’ meetings, and were privy to CGL’s legal strategy.”

The CGL Project will likely be drawing on Petraeus’ military & intelligence background as well as KKR’s experience in suppressing Indigenous resistance. After five previous failed attempts to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, Industry & Government have not given up yet on their larger vision to make Canada a global energy superpower through the creation of an “energy corridor,” with sights on exporting fossil fuels to Asia and the United States. But achieving this goal will require eliminating the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s ability to exercise sovereignty over their land. The CGL Project would seem to be the weapon Canada has chosen to use to achieve this strategic objective.

If Canada is successful in creating its “energy corridor,” it will begin fully tapping into Alberta’s tar sands, which contain an estimated 170 billion barrels – 12 percent of global reserves. Fully tapping into the tar sands would release a staggering 240 billion tons of carbon, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by an estimated 120 parts per million (ppm). In the words of Climate Scientist James Hansen this would be “game over for the climate.” In combination with the equally daunting (75%) rate of emissions from the fracked natural gas, these carbon bombs would be capable of unleashing the most devastating impacts of climate collapse: billions of people killed or displaced by extreme weather and ecosystem failure amidst an unprecedented sixth mass extinction.

Conclusion: Solidarity & Revolution

The Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders are not alone in their struggle. They are part of a 150 Nation Strong Indigenous Treaty Alliance against tar sands extraction, and Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en Territory this year prompted a wave of demonstrations across the country in protest.

A major blockade began on February 6th led by the Mohawk Tribe of Tyendinaga, crippling passenger and freight train traffic for over two weeks and blocking several highways. The blockade lasted until February 24th, when police arrested ten Land Defenders standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

An estimated $63 million was lost each week of the blockades due to backed up product not being distributed. Despite the disruption of grain distribution, the National Farmers Union (NFU) came out publicly in support of the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders and Mohawk Blockades, drawing a comparison with the farmers’ own playbook:

“Farmers in Canada… have a very long history of using non-violent direct action to assert our rights and defend our economic interests.”

The National Farmers Union’s vision for transforming Canadian agriculture is a part of the international Indigenous and Peasant movement Via La Campesina, and recognizes the urgent need for climate resilience in agriculture. Climate collapse threatens the world’s food supply through soil depletion, widespread drought, pollinator die-offs, and more.

While groups such as the NFU supported the Mohawk Blockades, the white nationalist group WEXIT sent bomb threats to multiple First Nations supporting the Wet’suwet’en, and encouraged the use of lethal force against the Tyendinaga Mohawks. WEXIT’s leadership includes open Nazis, and calls for violence consumed Canadian alt-right websites during the blockades. This dynamic illustrates a convergence between fascist agitators, fossil fuel companies, and the RCMP.

Undeterred, Hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and Mohawk Chiefs said that blockades would come to an end once the demands of the Unist’ot’en clan were met. As declared in a Mohawk press release:

When you ask for the rule of law, you have to follow it yourself. Canada has committed a crime against humanity in Wet’suwet’en territory. It has broken its own laws as well as Wet’suwet’en laws and internal laws. You cannot remove people from their own lands at the end of a gun. A crime has been committed and the RCMP are criminals.

While the blockades were eventually suppressed by police, the solidarity movement answering the Wet’suwet’en call to Revolution is surely growing.

You can donate to the Unist’ot’en camp if you wish to directly provide material support to the Nation. There are multiple ways listed on their website to provide aid to people on the frontlines of protecting their traditional territory. As the Unist’ot’en checkpoint is providing protection for All Life on Earth, it is vital that the support is returned to them.

After the raid, the following call to action was delivered by the Unist’ot’en:

“Police tore down the red dresses that were hung to hold the spirits of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people. They extinguished our sacred fire.

We have had enough. Enough dialogue, discussion, negotiation at the barrel of a gun. Canada comes to colonize. Reconciliation is dead.

It is time to fight for our land, our lives, our children, our future.

Revolution lives.”

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