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June 15: International call to action – What’s Next in the #Unistoten Battle with Industry Giants

Canadian territory: The Unist’ot’en are counting on supporters to mobilize in a big way for the next step in our legal battle. From June 12-14, the BC Supreme Court will rule on the interim injunction. It will either be extended to an interlocutory injunction, giving a pass to more RCMP violence,  or dismissed, ending the human rights violations. But regardless of the outcome in the courts, it is not up to colonial government and industry giants to determine our fate. We remain unceded, undefeated, sovereign and victorious.

Originally published by Unist’ot’en Camp. Written by Freda Huson, Anne Spice, Molly Jane, Wulf, Andrew. Images by Micheal Toledano, Carla Lewis ***

***Photos collected from web and archives – If you would like to be credited for photography that appears in this article, please contact media@unistoten.com. Thank you for your talent and consideration.

On January 8th, you took action! You organized rallies and marches (Warning Facebook Link). You made solidarity statements. You wrote your representatives. You put on fundraisers and donated to the Legal Fund. You pledged to stand by the Unist’ot’en.

Now, we need you to stand up again, on June 15 regardless of the court outcome. The time is NOW to recognize indigenous sovereignty around the world. It is up to the Wet’suwet’en and our supporters to determine What’s Next.

WAYS TO SUPPORT:

★ Take Action where you live on June 15! (See Supporter Toolkit for ideas.)

★ Come to the Land: We are in need of long-term Indigneous supporters and allies who can be self-sufficient and spend a significant amount of time on the land

★ Fundraise For Legal Support: Please observe our Solidarity Fundraiser Protocols

★ Educate: Create a Solidarity Statement  and spread the word through media

1) WHAT HAS OCCURRED SINCE THE JANUARY RAIDS?

On January 7, 2019, the world watched in shock and horror as the unarmed Indigenous Wet’suwet’en were illegally forced at gunpoint to concede a checkpoint at the entrance to their unceded territories. TC Energy (TransCanada) plans to push through the “Coastal GasLink” fracked gas pipeline, despite nearly a decade of opposition and lack of consent from Wet’suwet’en/Unist’ot’en hereditary leadership. On January 11, under the threat of continued violence, the Unist’ot’en reached a temporary agreement with the RCMP to allow the removal of their entrance gate.

The international community responded with a massive show of support and solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en protecting their land, with nearly 100 simultaneous demonstrations (Warning Facebook Link) , and hundreds of thousands in donations raised around the world. With the fast paced, global flash-point of actions evolving into a complex and convoluted legal process, many were left wondering: What’s Next?

Here is a brief recap of developments on Unist’ot’en territory since January 2019:

Traplines:

From January 23-25, Coastal GasLink bulldozed through an Unist’ot’en trapline. Elders wept as they surveyed the damage left behind by CGL. The Unist’ot’en House Group of the Gilseyhu Clan demanded a stop-work order due to the ongoing violations. On March 6, CGL was ordered to cease work on the Unist’ot’en trapline by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) due to non-compliance with permits. Thus far, CGL has ignored the EAO order and continue to block access, operating bulldozers and excavators within meters of active traps.

Lithic Stone Artifacts:

On February 13th, stone tool artifacts were recovered from the construction Site 9A, a significant archaeological discovery legally obligating CGL to pause work, in order for the site to be assessed. Two days later, the Archaeology Branch and BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) trespassed on Unist’ot’en Territory to steal these artifacts, and later approved CGL’s inadequate mitigation plan with no Wet’suwet’en consultation. The Unist’ot’en House group filed for legal action in the BC Supreme Court on May 8, challenging the BCOGC archaeological mitigation plan prepared by CGL. BCOGC have not been reached for comment at the time of this publication.

Man Camp:

CGL continues to clear and prepare their proposed “Camp 9A” — where the artifacts were found and where Unist’ot’en traplines were bulldozed– to install a man camp. The company has stated their intention to bring in up to 450 workers to occupy unceded Unist’ot’en territory and construct the pipeline. The camp would threaten the safety and security of Wet’suwet’en people and residents of the Healing Center. (Warning Facebook Link) CGL does not have consent from Hereditary Chiefs to construct a camp on the territory.

Court Case:

On April 16, civil contempt charges against all 14 land defenders from January 7 were dropped, at a Prince George courthouse hearing.

United Nations:

Wet’suwet’en Leaders traveled to New York City on April 24 to appear at the United Nations Headquarters for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en house group, and Chief Na’moks of the Wet’suwet’en Tsayu Clan, spoke with support from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, condemning Canada for human rights violations.

2) WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW WITH THE LEGAL PROCESS?

On the week of June 10, the BC Supreme Court in Prince George will hear Coastal GasLink’s petition for an interlocutory injunction. If they are successful, the interim injunction will be made functionally permanent, allowing CGL to continue with pipeline construction on Unist’ot’en territory without the consent of hereditary chiefs.

The Wet’suwet’en fought for many years in the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case to have their sovereignty recognized and affirmed by Canadian law. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to their 22,000km2 territory.

Knowing that further litigation would be prohibitively expensive to Indigenous plaintiffs (and that pipeline construction could be completed before any significant legal issues could be further resolved) TransCanada and the provincial and federal governments are openly violating this landmark ruling. The economic burden and emotional toll this has taken on Freda Huson and her family has been tremendous. They have had to retain two legal teams to deal with daily violations of Indigenous rights and to prepare a response for the injunction hearing.

The Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan nations have already proven in the Supreme Court of Canada that their Aboriginal rights and title have not been extinguished. It is deeply unjust to force the Wet’suwet’en to prove their right to live on their own territories (again) in a court system built to dispossess Indigenous people. If the injunction continues to be upheld by the courts, it will be in defiance of both Wet’suwet’en law and Canadian legal precedents.

3) ARE THE UNIST’OT’EN STILL PROTECTING THEIR TERRITORY?

YES! Despite ongoing police occupation and intimidation, alongside a legal battle in the courts, the Unist’ot’en continue to use and protect their traditional territory, harvesting medicines, holding land-based healing ceremonies, and building cabins for long term life on their unceded land.

Cabin project:

At the  6th Annual Unist’ot’en Spring Construction Camp – May 12 to 31, a cabin was built on the territory to house long-term Indigenous supporters. One of the long term goals of the camp is to reoccupy our lands – helping our people reconnect with, reclaim, and protect our homelands. With the housing crisis growing on and off reserve, in small communities and urban centers, we cannot ignore the need for our people to have safe, healthy and secure housing.

Hunting, Gathering, Ceremony:

Controlling access to Unist’ot’en territory has allowed the house group to properly manage hunting on the territory. The moose population was in decline, but has returned to healthy levels through the care and stewardship of Unist’ot’en people. Indigenous people continue to hunt, gather berries and medicines, and hold ceremonies on the territory.

Youth Art Camp:

Unist’ot’en territory is a place where youth can learn cultural practices and reconnect to the land. This August, Unist’ot’en will host its second northern Indigenous youth art camp. Youth will learn northwest coast art and design, videography, Wet’suwet’en oral history and language. The Unist’ot’en are committed to protecting the land and water for the youth of today and the generations to come.

4) WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE HEALING CENTER?

The Unist’ot’en began construction of the Healing Center in 2015 to fulfill their vision of a culturally-safe healing program, centered on the healing properties of the land. Constructed entirely from donated materials and volunteer labor, the building features a full kitchen, dining space, meeting rooms, and lodging for elders and participants. Programming began in 2016 with the first Wet’suwet’en Youth Art Camp, and has expanded to include treatment for addictions, women’s groups, cultural workshops, and language schools.

Regardless of the amenities provided by the Healing Center building, the true success of the healing programming depends on connection to, and traditional use of, the land itself. All of Talbits Kwah territory is required for hunting, trapping, gathering medicines, berry picking, and visiting cultural ceremonial sites. Man camps and pipelines threaten all of those rights.

Even during the RCMP raids and threats of violence, and throughout the current militarized occupation, the Healing Center has continued to be a space where life-saving support and services are provided to Wet’suwet’en people. It is the embodiment of self-determined wellness and decolonization.

5) HAVE CGL AND THE RCMP CONTINUED VIOLATIONS?

Yes. The RCMP (and TC Energy/TransCanada) have been committing a litany of violations to the agreements made with Wet’suwet’en leadership, and to Indigenous rights. The RCMP, despite their claims of impartiality, have actively enforced CGL’s invasion of Unist’ot’en lands. (Warning Facebook Link)  The following are instances of such breaches and falsehoods:

CGL:
RCMP:

6) WHY HAVEN’T WE BEEN HEARING ABOUT ALL OF THIS?

Many journalists and supporters have been hungry for news and information from Wet’suwet’en territories since the violent invasions in January. Corporate control and oil/gas industry funding of major media outlets silences or severely skews the authentic stories from the Unist’ot’en frontline. This leaves independent media and social media (Warning Facebook Link) as the only purveyors of truth. Due to heightened legal ramifications, everything published is judged very carefully with regards to language and fact-checking. In the past, CGL lawyers have used posts from Facebook as evidence in court against the Unist’ot’en, regardless of context.

The mainstream media has continued to misrepresent Unist’ot’en intentions, picking up industry’s lies and reporting them as facts. The daily invasion of CGL and RCMP, as well as routine violations of Indigenous rights, are not seen as “newsworthy” content.

When industry and RCMP act to continue colonial control of territory, they also attempt to maintain colonial control of the narrative. Make no mistake– this story is about Indigenous sovereignty and resurgence in the face of colonial invasion. We are working hard to counter CGL’s lies and RCMP’s threats. We need networks of critical and like-minded people to help spread awareness, and to make sure our story is told.

For media inquiries, please contact media@unistoten.com(Due to the heavy volume of requests and messages the hosts receive, response may be delayed).

7) SO…WHAT’S NEXT IN THE UNIST’OT’EN BATTLE AGAINST INDUSTRY GIANTS?

Injunction Court Dates:

The Unist’ot’en are counting on supporters to mobilize in a big way for the next step in our legal battle. From June 12-14, the BC Supreme Court will rule on whether the injunction will be extended to an interlocutory injunction, or dismissed. Please donate here: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/unistoten-camp-legal-fund

Day of Action (June 15):

The global community understands that our struggle is not merely about the pipelines and other infrastructure projects. Without the pipeline threat, Unist’ot’en would still be here, living on our unceded lands. Re-occupation of our lands is based on our sovereignty on our territories. We have never surrendered our ancestral responsibility to gather medicines and berries, to hunt, trap, and fish, to exist as Wet’suwet’en on our territories. We are entitled to freedom of access and jurisdiction over the use of our land. We must be on our land without harassment from CGL and RCMP.

This armed invasion, expensive legal battle, and militarized occupation suggests the Wet’suwet’en again have to prove that this land is ours. This colonial system places the burden of proof that this is our land onto us, instead of on Canada, BC, or industry proving it’s theirs. Reconciliation can never occur if Canada only upholds the “rule of law” when it’s in their interest.

Now, we need you to stand up again, on June 15 regardless of the court outcome. The time is NOW to recognize indigenous sovereignty around the world. It is up to the Wet’suwet’en and our supporters to determine What’s Next.

WAYS TO SUPPORT:

★ Take Action where you live on June 15! (See Supporter Toolkit for ideas.)

★ Come to the Land: We are in need of long-term Indigenous supporters and allies who can be self-sufficient and spend a significant amount of time on the land

★ Fundraise For Legal Support: Please observe our Solidarity Fundraiser Protocols

★ Educate: Create a Solidarity Statement  and spread the word through social media


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