The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office Friday, Feb. 28, showing its solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
Chief Byron Louis signed the letter on behalf of OKIB councillors, stating their support for the hereditary chiefs who have established blockades in opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline – blockades that have sparked protests across the country, from Ottawa to Vernon.
The letter opens with an acknowledgement of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s right to have sovereignty over its land, before expressing its views on the environmental harm at stake were the pipeline plan to go through.
“We understand GasLink will not only carry gas from Northern British Columbia obtained by fracking … but also traverse the sacred headwaters of the Talbits Kwah (Gosnell Creek) and Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) – both spawning grounds for salmon,” the letter reads.
The OKIB frames the pipeline dispute as part of a history of “continued injustice” against Indigenous peoples.
“Canada’s history is replete with instances of First Nations people forcibly removed from their land. Whether by government policy or police action, the result is the same – economies and culture are destroyed, ecosystems ravaged and rights unjustifiably extinguished in the name of ‘Public Interest.’”
The letter also calls into question the legitimacy of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against Wet’suwet’en protesters made in January.
”Consultation and reconciliation demand respect for rules and systems of government that were in effect in this land long before people with Western European ideas of governance immigrated here,” the letter reads, before concluding with an appeal for the letter’s points to be considered by the prime minister and the federal government.
In Victoria, the first arrests of protesters were made at the B.C. Legislature on Thursday. It was the fourth day of demonstrations, and two people apparently using water-soluble chalk on and around the building were arrested by Legislature security.
Last week in Vernon a handful of protestors led by Mariel Belanger of the OKIB stationed themselves along Highway 97 near L&A Cross Road to show support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation.