Indigenous Youth, Leadership and Suicide

Yesterday I wrote about children as sacred beings. And how moved I have been by the eloquence of Indigenous youth. Below is an example, where Kolin Sutherland-Wilson discusses the history of colonialism and the struggle of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en.

Kolin often speaks of his worry about what is happening on the Wet’suwet’en territory. At one point the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had sniper rifles aimed at his younger brother Denzel, who was not shot. But the Wet’suwet’en knew the RCMP had discussed using lethal force during their raid a year ago.

WARNING: This video contains graphic images of an armed threat on the lives of land defenders Denzel Sutherland-Wilson (Gitxsan) and Anne Spice (Tlingit).


The public actions of the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en have been courageous in the face of multiple threats. There were threats against Kolin and the other Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en during the time they were sitting-in on the steps of the British Columbia Legislature.


That time when threats of white supremacists were on the rise at the B.C. Legislature and so allies of the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en formed an impenetrable forcefield of love around them 💗
Mike Graeme is with Catherine Turnbull and 4 others.March 14 at 5:19 PM

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A tragic aspect of the lives of Indigenous youth is the epidemic of suicides. The following was recently shared in the Instagram post below.

On Feb 5 I got the news that my cousin and childhood best friend had committed suicide. I just want to stress to you how intrinsically tied these issues are. These are not separate things.
When you stand here you are standing against the epidemic of indigenous youth suicides. It’s not just a pipeline. It’s all completely interdependent. I say this when I think about my cousin who committed suicide two weeks ago because it helps me process; it helps me understand the depth of colonization.
My cousin committee suicide, but he might as well have been shot by the RCMP. When you stand against a pipeline you are standing against the centuries-old practice of infringing on indigenous rights.


We’ve had to fight for over a hundred years. And despite the residential schools despite the epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis. Despite the enfranchisement. Despite the reserve. Despite all the assimilatory policies of Canada that have existed up until the modern day, our system of governance and the Wet’suwet’en system of governance has persevered and they have remained strong as is demonstrated by the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en when they evicted Coastal GasLink from their territories.

They have made it clear that they have never consented to that project on their territories and they have fought for too long to make that voice recognized within a system that is inherently racist.  Within a system that inherently tries to erase the voice of indigenous peoples, of traditional indigenous governments while replacing us with imposed Indian Act models of governance. Because the band councils are accountable to the federal government but the hereditary Chiefs, the Laksilyu and the ___  of the Wet’suwet’en are accountable to the people. They are accountable to their house groups. They’re accountable to the land the territories on which they have resided for thousands of years and it is not the place of British Columbia to come in and say you know this means nothing. It’s not the place for the Supreme Court of British Columbia to come in and say that indigenous law is not effectual within Canadian law.

It is not their place to come in and say that we can assault you with RCMP, that we can displace you from your lands, we could set up exclusion zones to limit you from going on to your own territories, that we can impose our law which has been oppressing you, which has been impressing oppressing indigenous peoples for over a hundred years. It’s not the place of British Columbia to do that and especially in light of the recent United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples that they’ve adopted.

It is shameful. It is shameful that Horgan to say it is not retroactive. Because in this country we have over 500 years of colonialism, 500 years of baggage, 500 years of oppression and he thinks he can wipe that all clean and only look towards the future. That is shameful and clearly after what we’ve seen tonight and our worries about what might happen on our Unist’ot’en Yenta with another RCMP raid.

It is clear that they have not learned from the past. It is clear that they are pushing forward blindly. It is irresponsible. It is dangerous and is putting our lives on the line because the Premier has refused to meet with the Wet’suwet’en and hereditary Chiefs. The Wet’suwet’en and hereditary Chiefs have been patient. They have been patient for over a hundred years. The Wet’suwet’en and hereditary Chiefs they made it clear they want to talk leader to leader face to face in a respectful manner. Between the Wet’suwet’en people’s, Canada and British Columbia. They don’t want the middleman. They don’t want random ministers being sent their way. They have made it very clear that they are the decision-makers on their territory. They are the title holders on their territory. they even fought for this in the Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw decision.

After 11 Indigenous youth were arrested in a Wet’suwet’en solidarity action on Jan 22 in Victoria BC, Kolin D. Sutherland-Wilson of the Gitxsan Nation discusses the history of colonialism and the struggle of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en.
#WetsuwetenStrong #bcpoli #Wetsuweten

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An important read: #Repost @tribaltrust with @Rep0stApp • • • • • • • Beautiful images from journalist @mikegraeme reporting from British Columbia . The fountain at B.C. Leg was dyed red again to bring home the point that the country and the RCMP have blood on their hands. Here's a heart-shattering story shared by @chickadeebby that illustrates the systemic nature of that blood and how this movement goes beyond a pipeline • . "On Feb. 5 I got the news that my cousin and childhood best friend had committed suicide. I just want to stress to you how intrinsically tied these issues are. These are not separate things • . When you stand here you are standing against the epidemic of indigenous youth suicides. It's not just a pipeline. It's all completely interdependent. I say this when I think about my cousin who committed suicide two weeks ago because it helps me process; it helps me understand the depth of colonization. • . My cousin committed suicide, but he might as well have been shot by the RCMP. When you stand against a pipeline you are standing against the centuries-old practice of infringing on indigenous rights. • . This is not about work ethic. This is not about laziness. This is not about any sort of notion that First Nations people are predisposed to mental illness than any other demographic. This is about 500 years of the systemic perpetuation of economic dependency. This is about the systemic perpetuation of unemployment • . And our leadership is structured to agree with the Canadian government at the moment. They were created in the form of the Indian Act. We are set up to lose before we even begin at this point in time. • . When you're standing against a pipeline you're not standing against a pipeline; you are standing for indigenous rights for every community across the globe. This is incredibly powerful" . . . #britishcolumbia #britishcolumbiacanada #canada #rcmp #indigenous #indigenousrights #indigenousactivism #indigenousactivist #firstnations #firstnation #indigenousyouth #wetsuwetenstrong #wetsuweten

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