The Shuswap Nation Tribal Council Chiefs are standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en’s anti-pipeline protests.
About 60 people showed their support for the Gidimt’en checkpoint and Unist’ot’en camp at a rally in Enderby Tuesday, Jan. 8. The camps seek to stop work on the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline that would carry liquefied natural gas from the Peace Region to a $40 billion LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat.
“We need people to understand that our hereditary systems, our hereditary laws, our hereditary chiefs are to be upheld and valued. We need that land,” said rally organizer Jody Leon. “We as indigenous people say no to pipelines.”
In a news release stating their support for the Wet’suwet’en nation, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council (SNTC) Tribal Chair Kukpi7 Wayne Christian said that Shuswap chiefs support the traditional governance and decision-making process of Wet’suwet’en Dinizeé and Tsakiyzé, the nation’s male and female hereditary chiefs.
“Just last summer, we reaffirmed our solid nation-to-nation relationship between the Secwépemc and the Wet’suwet’en. At our Secwépemc summer gathering, we stood with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en through ceremony and we reaffirmed our commitment to our nation-to-nation relationship as contained in the Peace and Cooperation Treaty,” Christian said.
“We stand with them today as their allies and support their position as it relates to their title and rights of their traditional territory and the unjustified infringement being imposed by government.”
Christian’s notice of support from the Shuswap Nation came after 14 arrests were made Monday by the RCMP to enforce the interim injunction order granted by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
“As of 6:45 p.m. (Monday), there were 14 persons arrested from the blockade set up by Gitdimt’en on Morice West Forest Service Road for various offences including alleged violations of the injunction order,” an RCMP statement reads. “All those arrested continue to be processed at this time. During the arrests, the RCMP observed a number of fires being lit along the roadway by unknown persons, and large trees felled across the roadway.”
Neskonlith Indian Band Kukpi7 Judy Wilson echoed Christian’s sentiment. A sacred fire was lit in the Neskonlith Hall at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 6 to show their support.
“The steadfast protection of our shared environment, territories and natural resources are a sacred responsibility shared by all peoples,” said Wilson. “Yet the brunt of the provincial and federal governments’ blind actions to prop up extractive resource industries continues to be borne by Indigenous land defenders, who only seek the protection of our lands and the health and well-being of all communities that depend on a healthy environment.”
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and BC Assembly of First Nations have also issued statements in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people.
The RCMP said it respects indigenous rights and titles across Canada.
“Our role is to enforce the injunction and not to interfere with any ongoing discussion between our indigenous communities and any other level of government,” an RCMP statement reads.
Police also said their primary concern is the safety of everyone involved, including protesters, police, area residents and the general public. To improve safety, police said, a temporary exclusion zone, which under civil injunctions are similar to criminal search warrants, was established. Anyone outside of the enforcement team is barred access from the zone.
Rallies condemning the arrests and supporting the anti-pipeline protesters occurred across the province and continent Tuesday. However, public support of the Unist’ot’en camp from Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has sparked local politicians to call for the minister’s resignation.
“This blockade has been deemed illegal by the courts, and the minister made the decision to disrespect the communities and First Nations who will benefit from this project by standing with the protesters who are blocking it,” said Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo. “In my view, this kind of move compromises the minister’s ability to do his job in a fair and unbiased manner. What’s even more unfortunate is that the minister swore an oath to serve all British Columbians, not his activist friends.”
During Tuesday’s rally in Enderby, Leon said $1,030 was raised. The money will be sent to the Unist’ot’en, and Leon thanked those in attendance for their generosity.
“The Gidimt’en was basically a checkpoint, as many of you know, that was put up to help protect the Unist’ot’en, who have been standing for six years, in opposition to the LNG pipeline,” Leon said.
“This (Supreme Court of British Columbia decision to allow the pipeline to pass through Wet’suwet’en land) is considered, to indigenous people, to be an act of war.”