Wet’suwet’en Peoples’ Leadership

Our perception of time is dynamic. A year can feel like a day, or a day a year. I am surprised this morning as I look back over what I’ve written about the Wet’suwet’en peoples to find only one month elapsed.

I first learned about the Wet’suwet’en people when I read that Hereditary First Nation chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink (CGL) contractors. I didn’t know anything about the Wet’suwet’en people, Hereditary chiefs, or the Coastal GasLink project.

My objective is to share what I have learned and why I think it is important for us to support the work of the Wet’suwet’en peoples on behalf of all of us.

The territory of the Wet’suwet’en peoples is in British Columbia. There are Hereditary Chiefs for each of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en territory, whose authority has been handed down for generations.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, if constructed, would transfer natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to a Liquid Natural Gas (LND) port near Kitimat on the Canadian Pacific coast. The Wet’suwet’en territory is between the natural gas and tar sands sources, and Kitimat.

The online post about the eviction included a video showing Unist’ot’en spokesperson and founder, Freda Huson, going to the temporary housing for the pipeline construction workers and delivering the eviction notice. The few workers there left the site.

I’ve spent years working to stop pipelines. We tried to find a way to stop fossil fuel extraction, refinement and shipping, but what would be a target? The fossil fuel infrastructure is so vast. Then the Keystone XL pipeline was proposed. Since it would cross the international border between Canada and the U.S., the permit required approval by the President. Here was finally a target to organize around. We worked to apply pressure on President Obama to deny the permit, which he eventually did. Although Mr. Trump approved the permit, construction is still stalled for various reasons.

Some of the lessons we learned included the need for a very specific target, how to use the Internet to recruit organizers and participants and apply pressure by showing the dangers of pipelines, training everyone how to participate in nonviolent direct actions, and the importance of building coalitions with as many groups as possible. An example is the Cowboy and Indian Alliance.

But I had never seen a face to face meeting between the representatives of a pipeline company and those opposing it. It was so powerful to see Freda Huson do just that. And that the pipeline personnel actually left, though I’m sure they expected the eviction to be short lived.

Our culture and our tradition is the land. We are directly connected to the land. It’s our spirituality. We cannot be forced to be away from our land.
Nine days since we took the land back.
It feels like something you don’t normally do. (laughter) Its revolutionary, right?
I don’t think anyone’s ever really evicted like a 6 billion dollar pipeline before.
People get confused about what we want as Native people. Like “what do you want?”
Just like, “land back!”. Don’t need any reconciliation, don’t want money, like I don’t want programs or funding or whatever.
(whispers “land back”)
Funny though, when I said that to my Dad, Wet’suwet’en people, if you tell them about LANDBACK, they’re like “we never lost the land, anyway.” Which is true.
Wet’suwet’en have never given up title to their 22,000 square kilometer territory.

from a video of Wet’suwet’en Indigenous youth

The multiple videos the Wet’suwet’en peoples produced since the first one I saw, about the eviction, all show two things. One is the spiritual power and peace of the interactions involving the Wet’suwet’en. Their beautiful ceremonies. The unshakable faith they will prevail.

The second is the awesome beauty of their lands and waters. I trace my environmental passion and activism to a vision I had as a teenager in 1970. I moved to Indianapolis before catalytic converters where in use and was distraught by the foul smelling clouds of exhaust. My vision was the horror of finding my beloved Rocky Mountains obscured in clouds of smog. I decided to give up owning a car and work to protect Mother Earth since. When I saw the beauty of the Wet’suwet’en lands I had a similar vision, this time of those lands torn up to build a pipeline, a black snake. I want to do what I can to prevent that.

We should not be building any more fossil fuel infrastructure nor extracting fossil fuels now. The multiple threats to Mother Earth become more evident with every passing day. It is crucial that we leave fossil fuels in the ground. These pipelines must not be built across the Wet’suwet’en territories or anywhere else.

In recent years I have become much more aware of the intersection of corporate capitalism and environment devastation. Capitalism continues to encourage corporations to extract and profit from fossil fuels even as the evidence of environmental devastation can no longer be denied. The endless appetite of consumerism drives a wasteful throwaway economy.

And aware of the fact that the US military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels. I recently read there would no longer be energy based wars if we got away from fossil fuels.

I don’t think a capitalist economy based on fossil fuel extraction, or the vast economic and fossil fuel waste and emissions of military forces, which guarantee armed conflicts, reflect the values of most of us.

“The decolonizing that needs to take place, both the education and the healing, are matters of urgency to the survival of the human species and the health of the Earth as Mother of us All.” https://www.decolonizingquakers.org/

I mentioned my goal is to explain why I think it is important for us to support the work of the Wet’suwet’en peoples on behalf of all of us. But we can only do so if we are aware of what it means to be an ally of Indigenous peoples. Seriously, you will not help, nor will you be welcome, if you attempt to provide leadership. It takes some time to appreciate why that is, but while you are learning you need to be seen, not heard.

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Lilla Watson

The following comes from a YouTube video of Harsha Walia speaking about Anti-Oppression, Decolonization, and Responsible Allyship.

  • All people not indigenous to North America who are living on this continent are settlers on stolen land. We acknowledge that Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central & South America were founded through genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples–which continues today and from which settlers directly benefit.
  • All settlers do not benefit equally from the settler-colonial state, nor did all settlers emigrate here of their own free will. Specifically, we see slavery, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, market imperialism, and capitalist class structures as among the primary tools of colonization. These tools divide communities and determine peoples’ relative access to power. Therefore, anti-oppression solidarity between settler communities is necessary for decolonization. We work to build anti-colonial movements that actively combat all forms of oppression.
  • We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.
  • As settlers and non-native people (by which we mean non-indigenous to this hemisphere) acting in solidarity, it is our responsibility to proactively challenge and dismantle colonialist thought and behavior in the communities we identify ourselves to be part of. As people within communities that maintain and benefit from colonization, we are intimately positioned to do this work.
  • We understand that allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with. We organize our solidarity efforts around direct communication, responsiveness, and accountability to indigenous people fighting for decolonization and liberation.
  • We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves. Individually and as a collective, we work compassionately to support each other through these processes. Participation in struggle requires each of us to engage in both solidarity and our own liberation: to be accountable for all privileges carried, while also struggling for liberation from internalized and/or experienced oppression. We seek to build a healthy culture of resistance, accountability, and sustenance.

There will be things that you are asked to do. Often on Facebook pages you will be asked to share things posted there with your own friends and networks.

Another very specific example follows:

TAKE TO THE STREETS!

Solidarity Actions are being aggregated at this Facebook page:
INTERNATIONAL MOBILIZATION EVENT PAGE

GET ON THE PHONE!

Call your friends, family and neighbours to let them know about the nearest demonstration or action and call the politicians responsible for the ongoing genocide against the Wet’suwet’en people. Let them know what you think about Indigenous people’s being violently removed from their lands.

MAKE A PHONE CALL TO SUPPORT WET’SUWET’EN

B.C. GOVERNMENT:

John Horgan (Premier)
(250) 387-1715

YOU CAN SAY

I’m calling to ask that your government uphold your commitment to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and respect Wet’suwet’en Law by withdrawing the RCMP trom Wet’suwefen Nation and canceling Coastal GasLinks permits.

I was horrified when heavily-armed RCMP officers forcibly removed Wet’suwet•en people from their own territory last year. and want to make Sure your government doesn’t let this happen today.

All five Clans at the Wet•suwet’en have rejected all pipelines. Coastal GasLink’s proposed pipeline does not have free, prior, and informed consent from the Wet•suwet’en. CoastalGasLink and the RCMP are trespassing on sovereign land.

When I read the above request, I spoke about it at my small Quaker Meeting, Bear Creek Friends, that is in the Iowa countryside. Many members have been involved in agriculture and care about protecting Mother Earth. A number of Friends have various relationships with Indigenous peoples. Some Friends have worked to protect water and to stop the construction of fossil fuel pipelines in the United States, such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The Meeting approved sending the following letter to British Columbia Premier, John Horgan.

John Horgan.
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA, BC V8W 9E1.
Email premier@gov.bc.ca

John Horgan,

We’re concerned that you are not honoring the tribal rights and unceded Wet’suwet’en territories and are threatening a raid instead.
We ask you to de-escalate the militarized police presence, meet with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, and hear their demands:
That the province cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
That the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and tribal rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
That the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by Coastal GasLink (CGL) respect Wet’suwet’en laws and governance system, and refrain from using any force to access tribal lands or remove people.

Bear Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)
19186 Bear Creek Road, Earlham, Iowa, 50072

We also sent the letter to the Des Moines Register but it was not published.

Another thing we did to educate people in Des Moines was to hold a vigil with signs about the Wet’suwet’en. Included below are images from two justice organization that helped spread the word about our vigil, Bold Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Make use of similar organizations in your area.

This struggle of the Wet’suwet’en peoples will continue. This provides a focus for actions on Indigenous Rights and against fossil fuel extraction, similar to the way Keystone XL did several years ago.

Those of us who want to be allies should help those we do this work with locally understand what that means. We should continue to monitor what is happening on the ground in Canada, and work to educate our own networks. Provide what help is asked of us by the Wet’suwet’en peoples.

“We make conscious decisions to either sit back and watch, or stand up and be heard.

We make choices as to whether protect our future generations, or we allow for a destitute future for them.

We make choices as to enter the uncomfortable place of change & movement, or we continue on this downward spiral.

What will your choice be?

Will you sit back and allow for human rights violations to occur, or will you #RiseUp with us?”

Wet’suwete’n Access Point at Gidemt’en
https://www.facebook.com/wetsuwetenstrong/
This entry was posted in #NDAPL, civil disobedience, climate change, decolonize, Indigenous, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized, Unist'ot'en, Wet’suwet’en. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wet’suwet’en Peoples’ Leadership

  1. Ann Hughes says:

    Well done, and well said. Thank you, Jeff Kisling and thank you to all of those in your Meeting of Friends. I believe you expressed concern at one point that information about the RCMP raids on the Wet’suwet’en people were being suppressed, particularly in the US. Did I hear that correctly? Is there any way that others can help to end this suppression?

    • jakisling says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is rare to have someone do so. I appreciate your memory and question about suppression of the news related to the raids on the Wet’suwet’en people. The reason I said that was just based upon doing an Internet search and finding just a handful of articles. This morning I did find a good number of articles by Canada’s APTN National News. https://aptnnews.ca/ Writing and sharing articles photos on as many social media platforms that you happen to use is the best way to spread the news. Our messages can reach many more people when we find justice organizations in our communities that are willing to share what we write about, We have held a public vigil with signs about the Wet’suwet’en people and RCMP raids. There, of course, you have no idea whether you’ve had any effect. If nothing else it is another opportunity to network with local concerned people.

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