On the front lines of ‘the war within Canada’s borders’ | Indigenous Rights

The snow fell as King Gis’day’wa’s chariot ascended a steep mountain road lined with pine trees. It was a Friday evening and the Heritage king of Wet’suwet’en and his family took me to Wet’suwet’en Yintah (place or territory).

It was part of his parents, where he grew up hunting, fishing and living in the country, but when his eyes were looking around the place, looking at the heirs, it was as if he was sneaking me away.

As we approached the bridge overlooking the Wedzin Kwa River, the sacred river Wet’suwet’en, we saw a walkway with two Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers. With their faces lighted up, they turned on their lights in the car, demanded to see the driver’s license, and wanted to know what business we were doing on the streets.

Gis’day’ told them that he was the heir to the country’s legacy, and the officers left their commander’s radio station to advise them. The bones of the emperor’s ancestors have been placed here and the ancient Wahs’wet’en tribal trade and trade routes pass through a large area, but now they have to ask permission to enter. After a 10-minute wait, permission was granted.

But not all cases with RCMP go through peacefully. Less than two hours earlier, more than a dozen people, including civil rights activists and two of my fellow journalists – photographer Amber Bracken and filmmaker Michael Toledano – had been arrested for pointing a gun at a car for 45 minutes up a hill.

View from 44 Camp on Morice River Forest Road [Brandi Morin/Al Jazeera]

They were housed in the Coyote Camp building, set up by landowners on Morice River Forest Service Road, a long road that leads to the project site and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline. The $ 6.6bn natural gas pipeline will travel 670km (416 miles) across northern British Columbia (BC). About 193km (120 kilometers) travel to Wet’suwet’en – a place that has never been legally signed in Korona or Canada. The camp was set up to prevent CGL plumbing fires under the Wedzin Kwa River, a river for imperfect humans to live in.

On November 14, members of the Gidimt’en Clan – one in five in the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and each tribe is made up of several houses – along with members of the other Wet’suwet’en tribes and allies, served. notice expulsion from CGL.

Inheritant kings representing the five Wet’suwet’en tribes are in possession adakana CGL, with the approval of council leaders.

These organizations are part of a system established by Canada’s Indian Act, a discriminatory law enacted more than 100 years ago in an attempt to regulate all aspects of the political, economic, construction and development of the First Nations. But most of the First Nations rejected the colonial organization and instead looked to their native kings, part of a system of rituals that has long been used, for the sake of leadership.

When TC Energy, the parent company of CGL, and the state and local governments signed a memorandum of understanding with the leadership of the corporate council, they passed on their native kings.

Gisxtan back to back Kolin Sutherland-Wilson [Brandi Morin/Al Jazeera]

‘It is happening’

A few hours earlier, I had sent a message to Amber, who had been detained by Gidimt’en State Security in the Coyote Camp for several days, telling her that I was leaving. Later the RCMP came to enforce the BC Supreme Court order giving CGL access to pipelines.

Amber’s last message before being arrested was: “Things are happening now.”

The RCMP had brought dogs, assault rifles, and chains.

Among those arrested at the same time as Amber were spokeswoman Gidimt’en Sleydo ‘, also known as Molly Wickham, and Jocelyn Alec, daughter of Gidimt’en Hereditary Chief Woos (Frank Alec).

One of Sleydo’s last notes said: “They’re breaking down the door with an ax and they have k9 units !!”

When I arrived at 44 Camp, another camp below Morice River Forest Service Road, a six-foot-tall wooden fence with a small guard wall was illuminated only by the moonlight and the smoke rising from the small house. . a house that was burned down. Inside some rooms and tents were canned food, flashlights, and sleeping bags. Outside, handmade billboards declare “Water and Life” and “No Permission”. What was not there were no people. It was like a ghost town. The landowners were gone – they lived in concrete prisons in Smithers. The tingling caused my back to tremble.

‘Revealed in the Light’

I’m going to Unist’ot’en ​​Healing Camp, up the hill. The Unist’ot’en ​​camp joins Yex T’sa Wilk’us of Gilseyhu (Dark House of the Big Frog Clan), part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. It is controlled by Freda Huson, also known as Chief Howilhkat. A fearless Matriarch is at the helm of this war to save his country and Wedzin To the saint. He has been leading the battle for the protection of the Wet’suwet’en areas for over a decade, setting up a camp in their cultural heritage to ensure that they have a natural right to them and to protect it from CGL and other pipeline activities.

Freda Huson at Wedzin Kwah at Unist’ot’en ​​Healing Camp [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

When I arrived at the camp, Freda and the other matriarchs were busy preparing deer meat harvested from Yintah – peeling, cutting, wrapping and canning. Freda appeared incredibly calm and undefiled by the chaos that ensued near the camp doors and RCMP helicopters circling the surface of it last week.

“It’s frustrating… All I know is that it won’t last,” Freda told me as she washed the irons that covered the moose meat in the cans.

“They [the CGL and provincial and federal governments] it will be their death because you cannot continue with evil and corruption, it will be exposed, ”he continued.

Dormitory at Unist’ot’en ​​Healing Camp [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

“They [the RCMP] they are here to protect the industry because their pensions are deposited and the governments have to reimburse each of the depositors … the pensions have been invested in TC Energy.

Freda asked me to stay at the treatment center – a place of refuge and solitude where people with bad habits, pain and mental problems can reconnect with the ground.

‘The battle is far from over’

The next morning, I set off with a camp attendant as RCMP planes flew overhead. We went to Smithers and from there, I walked an hour northwest to New Hazelton, where members of the neighboring Gisxtan community had blocked off near the Canadian National Railway in support of Wet’suwet’en.

Yesterday, several police officers came with dogs and guns to protect the railway tracks in Gisxtan unarmed.

Gisxtan allies blocked the railway line in support of Wet’suwet’en [Brandi Morin/Al Jazeera]

In the locker room, I spoke with Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, Gisxtan’s young defender. “We have a partnership to protect ourselves from thousands of years ago,” he said. “The war is not over. RCMP officials are not here. This was not approved by Gisxtan Lak Yip and then Wet’suwet’en Yintah was not approved. And they will know that there are consequences to your actions. This is not a case that should be settled in the courts. These are global issues that the crown has a responsibility to meet directly with our leaders. ”

The next day, two security guards were arrested. One of them was Kolin’s brother, Denzel, who had earlier met tragically with the police while patrolling the country. In February 2020, Denzel was shot from the top of the Gidimt’en camp control tower when police pointed a shotgun at him from the ground and helicopters surrounded him.

‘We are the strength’

Outside the RCMP station in New Hazelton, Sabina Dennis, a security guard at Carrier Sekani Nation who has been arrested several times, came to show her support for Denzel and the other detainees. He is fighting for everyone’s future, he explained.

“The soldiers who coerced us into doing so are committing acts of violence, sexual immorality, and the deprivation of human rights. “Everybody in Canada should be angry,” he said.

‘Your face does not deceive us,’ Sabina Dennis, on the right, told PM Trudeau – outside the RCMP station in New Hazelton. [Brandi Morin/Al Jazeera]

He had a message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Trudeau I know you are powerless, I know your power is long gone,” he said.

“Your face does not deceive us, your beautiful lies do not deceive us. We know that we are strong and will never relinquish our power and authority because that is love; for our families and for future generations. ”

Recent arrests were not the first protest between the Wet’suwet’en nationalists and the RCMP. In January 2019, after the CGL’s ruling against the Wet’suwet’en area guards and the BC Supreme Court, RCMP officers wearing armor and carrying guns entered the Wet’suwet’en Gidimt’en forum. and camp and built 14 national defense. It was after him reports that the RCMP was planning to use lethal force against land defenders.

Then on February 6, 2020, in the dark of morning, RCMP is also armed attacked national security camps installation to close the pipeline. Allied Indigenous Nations responded anger and harmony, shutting down large arms nationwide for about two weeks.

Land defenders and journalists arrested last week have now been released, but ahead of the war, it is clear that Canada is struggling with Indigenous Peoples within its colonial borders.

What is happening here is a fight for survival (PDF) and it comes at a time when ordinary people are still not interested in what they have found in the summer of The graves of thousands of Indian children who died in boarding schools they were forced to attend – a law established by the Canadian government and followed by the RCMP. For months, Canadians have worn orange shirts in conjunction with mourners, but it seems they have now turned around.

Landlords and deputies wait outside the court [Brandi Morin/Al Jazeera]

Outside the court, I saw Wet’suwet’en and other foreign women weeping for their children, who were imprisoned for protecting their communities, just as many villagers, past and present, are crying for their children those.

A few nights ago, on my way back to Unist’ot’en ​​Healing Camp, I heard that an eagle had been struck by a commercial vehicle in Wet’suwet’en Yintah and left on the sidewalk. to die. The conservationist found the sacred bird in distress and took it to Coyote Camp, which has now been reintroduced by Wet’suwet’en. One of the elders even blessed the bird and its spirit was gone. It was a sad reflection of what is happening here.

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