The following are excerpts from: Why Kolin Sutherland-Wilson can’t stay quiet. UVic student’s week-long protest draws attention to movement against pipeline project in northwestern B.C. by Josh Kozelj, Martlet, Jan 22, 2020
It was not until 1997, following failed negotiations with the province, that the Supreme Court of Canada found B.C. had no right to extinguish the rights of Indigenous peoples to their traditional territory. It was made clear that it was the hereditary chiefs who have the authority and title over this land.
Kolin was four years old.
It’s now 2020, and as a natural introvert, Kolin would prefer to avoid the spotlight.
He describes himself as a “hermit,” and typically enjoys quiet time at home with his wife and cat. However, when he woke up last December and learned that the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to stop Wet’suwet’en peoples and anti-pipeline protesters from blocking roads to a pipeline project on their traditional territory, he knew something had to be done.
After the hereditary chiefs called for a week of solidarity, Sutherland-Wilson decided to stage a solo week-long strike of his own outside the B.C. Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en peoples against the pipeline. He walked out during the first week of classes on Jan. 6 and was there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of that week.
Sitting in the NSU’s office in the basement of the Student Union Building, on an abnormally cold and snowy day in Victoria, Sutherland-Wilson gently clasps his hands together and stares straight ahead. The words “All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en” are written in big block letters on the whiteboard just over his right shoulder. He closes his chestnut-brown eyes for a few seconds, opening them to reveal weary tinges of red.
“Sitting on the steps was the least I could do, just to be a constant presence down there at the Legislature, just to be a constant reminder that what is happening is unacceptable and that B.C. has a duty to approach this nation-to-nation relationship in good faith and to not rely once again on the force of the RCMP like they did last year,” he says.
On Jan. 6, the first day of his week-long protest, Sutherland-Wilson published a video, “Colonialism in Canada: What is happening at Unist’ot’en?” to YouTube explaining the history of the Wet’suwet’en nation and why they continue to fight for their land.
This is the video Kolin published:
It’s the final weekday of his week-long protest at the Legislature, and Kolin is sitting on the front steps.
The weather is cold, and he’s there day until night, but it’s nothing compared to the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures that protesters are facing on Wet’suwet’en territory in northwestern B.C.
Hundreds of UVic students walked out of class on Jan. 10 to stand in solidarity with Sutherland-Wilson and the hereditary chiefs. They marched around Ring Road and met Kolin at the Legislature with signs and banners — shocking the student who originally planned to just be a single constant presence at the provincial building.
“When everyone came down and joined me at the Legislature,” he says before pausing and recollecting the moment. Sutherland-Wilson tears apart his hands from a clasped position, and begins to rub them along the length of his thighs.
“Just the fact they went down there to join me, and stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en … I think it really helped me fully communicate my purpose for being down there.”
He says a lot of his knowledge comes from his father and Elders in his home community, the same people who have been fighting this same struggle for generations.
It’s tiring and cold sitting on the steps of the Legislature for hours and hours on end, but Sutherland-Wilson says it’s his duty to follow his heart.
“Lives are on the line, people I love and know,” He says. “I don’t really have a choice but to make as much noise as possible, to try and get as much information out there as possible.”
There’s probably a million other places he would be — including quiet time at home with his wife and cat — but, like his father over two decades ago, he knows there’s still work that needs to be done.
Why Kolin Sutherland-Wilson can’t stay quiet. UVic student’s week-long protest draws attention to movement against pipeline project in northwestern B.C. by Josh Kozelj, Martlet, Jan 22, 2020
You can also hear Kolin speak on this video from the Sierra Club BC
Video of Panel with David Suzuki and Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en Leaders Ta-kaiya Blaney, and Kolin Sutherland-Wilson.