The conflict over a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia is the latest flashpoint between resource development and Indigenous rights and title in a province where large swaths of territory are not covered by any treaty.
At the centre of the conflict is a multi-billion dollar natural gas project — touted as the largest private sector investment in Canadian history — and an assertion by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that no pipelines can be built through their traditional territory without their consent.
‘We face total negligence… when it comes to prosecuting attackers or murderers of our women’
As the names of more than 200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were read, people listened in silence, many staring into space or at the carpeted floor of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. A few quietly wiped away tears. Healers burned braids of sweet grass and bunches of sage, waving the smoke onto the half-dozen men reading the names.
Charlene Akpik Apok, Inupiaq, director of gender justice and healing for the nonprofit community advocacy and training organization Native Movement, was emcee of the Vigil and Heartbeat of the Drums for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She told the audience of more than a hundred people she had asked men to read the names to remember and honor allies in the fight against the loss of Indigenous women.”
A major victory for Canada’s First Nations has just been won in Ontario. On January 31, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) overwhelmingly voted down the proposed deep geological repository (DGR) for storage of low- and intermediate-level radioactive nuclear waste next to Lake Huron. The DGR had long been proposed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), but in 2013 OPG had committed to SON that it would not build the DGR without their support.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline hold a press conference in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020.Amy Smart/The Canadian Press/File
The “territorial re-occupation” of land along the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. by hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people has raised some thorny constitutional questions and some surprising interventions.
The $6.2 billion, 670 km pipeline route runs from Dawson Creek, near the Alberta border, to Kitimat in B.C.’s north coast region, crossing through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.
Judy Wilson’s Message for Canadians: ‘The Land Defenders Are Doing This for Everybody’
RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory can’t bring justice, reconciliation or a better future, Neskonlith chief says.
Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith First Nation, east of Kamloops, is secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a community leader, strong opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and an advocate for clean energy.
Shiri Pasternak is a professor of criminology at Ryerson University and the research director of the Yellowhead Institute.
Over the coming weeks, two stories will be told repeatedly about the police raids and arrests on Wet’suwet’en territory. One story will already be familiar to those reading coverage of the escalating conflict between Coastal Gaslink, the province of British Columbia and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary government. It goes like this: First Nation band councils have consented to this development and welcome the jobs and revenue; Indigenous groups working under hereditary authority who oppose the pipeline, therefore, represent a rogue and non-democratic faction.
B.C. Premier John Horgan has brushed aside mounting criticism from human-rights organizations of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, saying the infrastructure that is vital to securing a liquefied natural gas industry in British Columbia will be built.
Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (email@example.com)To:youDetails
In 2016 and ‘17, you stood with Standing Rock because you knew the importance of the Lakota maxim: Mni Wiconi — water is life. Decades back, a liberal Congress understood that, too, which is why a conduit that carries fresh water from the Missouri River to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is named the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System.
As described here by the Guardian, the Oglala Lakota Nation gets about half of our water through the Mni Wiconi. The other half comes from private wells and the deeper Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline (KXL) is completed, it will traverse the Mni Wiconi in two locations, cross tributaries that flow into the Missouri River, and endanger both our aquifers. There literally isn’t a drop of our water supply that isn’t threatened by KXL.
If that isn’t scary enough, uranium mining — licensed by the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in the 1950s and ‘60s and tied to nuclear weapons manufacturing — has, at times, contaminated water near Pine Ridge. Extraction looms over us in multiple ways, threatening our water and threatening our health.
It probably won’t surprise you that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t test our water for uranium. That’s why the Oglala Sioux Tribe has conducted tests at more than a dozen locations on and surrounding Pine Ridge. We helped secure the experts and resources for the field testing and now await results from the University of South Dakota.
Oglala Lakota President Julian Bear Runner and I were both unlawfully arrested in 2017 for trying to stop the Dakota Access pipeline from traversing our Oceti Sakowin Oyate — with all charges now dismissed. In 2020, we pledge to keep fighting to safeguard water by attending to contamination issues and by doing all we can to stop KXL in its tracks.
I wish a happy New Year to you and yours, and I ask that you stay active with me in this battle. By holding our coalition together, we water protectors can and will continue to make a tremendous difference.
Wopila — Our gratitude for your attention,
Chase Iron Eyes
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859
The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.
A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist’ot’en camp on a remote logging road near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 17, 2019. In a statement, Coastal GasLink said staff discovered felled trees near the work site on Sunday, making the road impassable. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Coastal GasLink gives pipeline opponents 72-hour notice to clear way to worksite
Coastal GasLink has posted an injunction order giving opponents to its pipeline project 72 hours to clear the way to its work site in northern B.C.
The order, stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry, addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who say the project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.
‘What cost are human rights worth?’ UN calls for immediate RCMP withdrawal in Wet’suwet’en standoff
Experts say the world is watching to see if Canada heeds a call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until ‘free, prior and informed consent’ is obtained from Indigenous peoples
I hope your holiday season has been filled with love, family, and all the comforts of home. As mentioned a couple times over the past few weeks, we’re grateful to bring these human necessities to children in our new foster home on Standing Rock Nation very soon. As we enter 2020, we’re equipping their new house so they can enjoy it for years to come.
This is about far more than mere shelter. As Madonna Thunder Hawk says in our video, we Lakota don’t call it foster care; we call it kinship care because keeping Lakota kids with Native guardians means the preservation of families, culture, and tradition. Only with all of these elements together do our children have the best possible foundation for their future.
Located on the South Dakota side of Standing Rock, the home is almost ready. We’ve recruited our first tribal foster parent, and we expect to have children in the home early in the New Year.
Standing Rock’s tribal leaders support this effort, and in time we hope to aid them and other tribal nations in creating additional foster homes for more kids in need. There are far too many. According to the ACLU, American Indians comprise less than nine percent of South Dakota’s population, but 52 percent of the children in its foster care system are Native. Our children are 11 times more likely to be placed in foster care than a white child.
That’s why your support is so important. Together, we can put some of Standing Rock’s most vulnerable kids on solid footing for the coming year.
Wopila tanka — I can’t thank you enough for supporting our next generation!
Chase Iron Eyes
The Lakota People’s Law Project