With hands in the air and voices singing, local Indigenous leaders and community members in Penticton stood in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en — in the protection and defence of their unceded territory.
Together they gathered on the steps of the Penticton Court House before crossing the street where they continued their demonstration in Gyro Park.
In a joint statement, Snpinktn (Penticton) Hereditary Chief Adam Eneas and Penticton Indian Band (PIB) Chief Chad Eneas made it clear they stand in unity on issues of jurisdiction over traditional territory and decision making.
They added they recognize the “divide and conquer” tactics of the Province of B.C. and Canada, which results in the “unlawful invasion of Wet’suwet’en Nation’s unceded territory.”
This stems from issues relating to the construction of a 670-kilometre pipeline in northern B.C., scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.
All clans within the Wet’suwet’en Nation have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided consent to Coastal Gaslink or TransCanada to start any projects on Wet’suwet’en lands, the statement explains.
“By trespassing on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands, CGL has infringed on Canadian and international law and has compromised sites central to the spiritual and cultural well-being of Wet’suwet’en people,” they said.
Before gathering on Monday, Adam spoke with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Namox, and received his blessing to stand with them in raising awareness about this issue.
“I’m certain there’s a way for a peaceful resolution, and there’s no need for the use of force,” said Chad at the gathering downtown Penticton. “Women and children are being hurt up there.”
The main message that they want to convey, Chad explained, is that they are standing united.
“Our hereditary chief and our elected chief systems that were in place before colonization and settlement here are; that’s the real need for reconciliation, to find a way forward so that we have a bright future,” said Chad.
“We’ve lived in this area for 10,000 years, and our knowledge is being disregarded when there are decisions being made. Now that says something. In 200 years, in 50 years, we can’t drink the water here no more. What does that say?”
They are not alone in this, Chad explained, adding that everything is connected; from the killer whales in the ocean to the salmon in the Okanagan.
“We need to know that … our interests are going to be protected in that aspect,” he said.
Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow said like Chad, he also stands with the Wet’suwet’en.
“The mistreatment that they’re going through, after the signing of Bill 41, what’s Horgan doing?” said Crow. “He signed it, is it just a tokenism, a signature to it, or is there actually commitment? And there is no commitment at this point in what I see.
“They need to make the changes,” he said.
Rallies like the one in Penticton on Monday, for Crow, represent an opportunity to show that they are united.
“The hereditary chiefs, they’ll hear us, that we’re doing this to help support them, and I know they would help support us in anything we need too; it goes both ways,” said Crow.
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