Teaching Unist’ot’en

Cover image: “The Dini Ze’ (Highest Hereditary Chiefs) of the Wet’suwet’en Nation came to offer their support behind the Unist’ot’en People” from Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page.

 

We educate in support of the Unist’ot’en Camp. Please donate here to materially support Indigenous sovereignty. For updates, follow Unist’ot’en Camp on Facebook.

Introduction

#NoDAPL brought the fight to protect Indigenous homelands into the spotlight. Now that the gathered crowds have returned home and the Dakota Access pipeline has been constructed, many are wondering how they can continue to support Indigenous resistance and stem the tide of catastrophic environmental decline. What many have learned is that Standing Rock was one of MANY flashpoints of Indigenous resistance. It was not the first fight against the ravages oil and gas, nor will it be the last. We urge you to continue to turn your attention to Indigenous re-occupations of territory by following the #Unistoten Clan’s fight against the proposed Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

The Unist’ot’en camp is a re-occupation of traditional territories, and a space of Indigenous healing and renewal. Through this re-occupation, the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have blocked numerous proposed pipelines, protecting the land and water for the use of their people and for generations to come.

The Unist’ot’en have maintained a road checkpoint at the bridge over the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) since 2010, and have constructed several permanent structures, including a three story healing center, directly in the path of numerous proposed oil and gas pipelines. Hundreds of supporters from around the world have gathered with them at the encampment to stand up for Indigenous sovereignty and liberation. All visitors must go through a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent Protocol before entering the territory, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Wet’suwet’en indigenous law. With this protocol, the Unist’ot’en people assert rights and responsibilities to their territory, and refuse the incursions of the petroleum industry working with the settler state. Since 2010, the Unist’ot’en have blocked representatives of Chevron, TransCanada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from entering their territories.When industry attempted to circumvent the checkpoint by helicopter, Unist’ot’en have evicted pipeline work crews. In 2017, their continued resistance catalyzed the dismissal of an application to build the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. While we celebrate each pipeline defeated, new threats emerge from the Trudeau government’s reckless energy development policy.

This page gathers resources, facts, and videos so that educators are able to spread the word about Unist’ot’en Camp, and to better understand the context in which they struggle against the invasion of the Canadian state and industry. We hope that people use this page as a resource for collective education and action toward the goal of decolonization and particularly the material support of the Unist’ot’en people.

Recent events:

On Tuesday November 20th, 2018, representatives of TransCanada Corporation attempted to enter unceded Unist’ot’en territory by way of the Morice River Bridge, where they were stopped by representatives of the indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan and allied anti-pipeline activists.

Currently, TransCanada is undertaking preliminary work on their $4.7 billion, 670 km Coastal Gas Link pipeline, which seeks to connect fracking wells in North Eastern B.C. with a liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal, collectively forming a $40 billion infrastructure project called LNG Canada. At a recent press conference Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “LNG Canada represents the single largest private-sector investment project in Canadian history.” TransCanada is also funding the Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines.

Background:

The Unist’ot’en Clan, and the Wet’suwet’en nation to which they belong, have never signed treaties or sold their land to Canada. In 1997, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, including Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en clan, won the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa Supreme Court Case. The court recognized that the Wet’suwet’en people have never given up title to 22,000km² (8500mi²) of land in northern British Columbia (an area the size of New Jersey).

Despite this ruling, the governments of Canada and British Columbia continue to assert jurisdiction over this territory and have issued permits for resource projects without the consent of the Unist’ot’en or Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. Canada maintains that First Nations must be consulted about projects, but ultimately cannot veto or reject developments on their lands. The Unist’ot’en Clan insists that the government requires “consent for any activities and development that take place” on their territories.

Since 2010, the Unist’ot’en have controlled road access to a 710km² territory known to the Wet’suwet’en as Talbits Kwa. In a 2015 declaration, the Unist’ot’en asserted: “Our traditional Indigenous legal systems remain intact and continue to govern our people and our lands. We recognize the authority of these systems.”

Key terms

Indigenous sovereignty

Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa Supreme Court Case

Hereditary chief system

Environmental racism

Capitalism

Dispossession

Critical infrastructure

Neoliberalism

Settler colonialism

Unceded/ untreatied lands

Aboriginal title

Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)

Timeline

1997
Wet’suwet’en plaintiffs, including Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en clan, win the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa Supreme Court Case, which recognizes that the Wet’suwet’en people have never given up title to 22,000km2 of land.

2008
Unanimous decision by all Wet’suwet’en clans to opt out of BC treaty process, asserting their rights and title through Indigenous law

2009
Province of British Columbia begins issuing permits for pipeline energy corridor.

2010
Unist’ot’en Camp constructs a cabin upon the exact coordinates of one of the proposed pipelines.

2014
July: First TransCanada helicopter evicted.

2015

May: Construction begins on Unist’ot’en Healing Center

May/June: TransCanada makes multiple attempts to trespass on Unist’ot’en territory.

 

 

July: RCMP attempt to enter Unist’ot’en Camp, note that blocking their entry is an arrestable offense.

Chevron attempts to enter territory, but is turned away after making an offering of budget cigarettes and bottled Nestle water. Video of the interaction goes viral due to the offensive nature of the “offering”.

 

 

2017
July: Government of Canada directs National Energy Board to dismiss Enbridge application for the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which had been proposed through Unist’ot’en territory

2018
October 1: LNG Canada announces final investment decision, signalling intent to build LNG terminal in Kitimat, BC, giving green light to TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink pipeline
November 20: TransCanada officials attempt to gain access to Unist’ot’en Territory by way of Morice River bridge.

 

Readings

Spice, Anne. 2018. Fighting Invasive Infrastructure. Environment and Society. (PDF)

Freda Huson, Toghistiy, and Mel Bazil. “Grassroots Wet’suwet’en” in Undoing Border Imperialism. (PDF)

Overview of Indigenous Title Precedent, UBCIC (PDF)

Pasternak, Shiri. 2017. “Blockade: A meeting place of law.” In Whose Land is it Anyway? A Gudie to Decolonization. (PDF)

Manuel, Arthur. 2017. “Aboriginal Title: No Surrender.”

Temper, Leah. 2018. “Blocking Pipelines, Unsettling Environmental Justice

Decolonizing and Decarbonizing: How the Unist’ot’en are Arresting Pipelines and Asserting Authority

 

 

46491739_2288249341249298_5971271797310488576_o.jpg

Image: Freda Huson and Dini Ze’ Smogelgem, from Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page. “TransCanada was just at the bridge. They want to force the proposed Coastal Gas Link pipeline through our lands. They were contractors attempting to gain access without consent. They refused to answer the protocol questions and were turned away. These are legally described unceded Wet’suwet’en Territories. We have the legal right to ask protocol questions on our territories. We have a right to control them and to protect them.”
Advertisements