The Unist’ot’en, part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, have once again prohibited further development on territory south of Houston, claiming it is unceded First Nation land.
For their stance, the Unist’ot’en are receiving wide-spread support in the form of rallies across North America and have even sent Freda Huson abroad to spread the message of their plight.
In Smithers more than 20 people gathered in front of the Royal Bank (RBC) on Main Street because RBC invested nearly $4 billion towards pipeline development, according to a pamphlet distributed at the rally.
“Right now we’re in Gitumden territory,” Mel Bazil said, acknowledging the Wet’suwet’en stewards of the area where Smithers sits.
“The Gitumden are responsible for this land and the shared responsibility of all people while we’re here.”
The Unist’ot’en appreciate support at the grass roots level, but support from corporations and the senior level of government lacks, Bazil said.
“These companies, banks, these governments are not asking permission,” Bazil said.
“They’re telling us, ‘this is our process and you can join our process and you can acknowledge us as the keepers of these lands.’”
“That’s not where we’re at.”
The Unist’ot’en presented Apache Canada with an eagle feather, representing a notice of trespass, on Nov. 20, 2012 along the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline route.
Some Unist’ot’en members built a log cabin along the proposed pipeline route and they won’t leave until developers get their message.
The Unist’ot’en received international support for their cause after a call for support.
Rallies in Ottawa, Toronto, Victoria, Vancouver, Prince George, California, New York and at Apache’s headquarters in Houston, Texas, were all held at noon last Tuesday.
Vancouver Police Sergeant Tom Mclean assisted protestors in Vancouver, when they were barred from delivering the Unist’ot’en eviction letter to the president of Apache Canada at the office on Burrard Street.
The letter, signed by Freda Huson, did not mince words regarding future development.
“Any further unauthorized incursion into traditional Wet’suwet’en territory will be considered an act of colonialism and an act of aggression towards our sovereignty,” Huson wrote.
Huson was in Trinidad and Tobago to speak at an environmental conference while the protests in her homeland were taking place.
“I shared my peoples’ struggle in Canada,” Huson said.
“About how government and industry continue to issue permits for projects that destroy our lands.”
Persistence is necessary when dealing with industry and government, according to Adam Gagnon, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief.
“I fought the fight along with the Gitxsan back in the 80s for fishery rights,” Gagnon said at the RBC rally.
“It took a while, but we ended up taking control of our fishery.”
“If we didn’t do that we’d still be getting pushed around by Department of Fisheries.”
Gagnon is looking forward to re-instating Wet’suwet’en traditional laws regarding the environment.
“It’s up to us to take responsibility and enforce our zero-tolerance laws on all the streams and rivers.”
The proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline will cross two major salmon spawning areas on the Witzinkwa (Morice) River, which is potentially detrimental to a staple Wet’suwet’en food source, explained Huson.