Local First Nations groups are standing in solidarity with the protesters opposed to a pipeline expansion in Northern B.C. who were recently forcibly removed from their camp.
Representatives of the Neskonlith band and other members of the Secwepemc Nation have expressed support for the protesters and condemned the actions of the Canadian government.
On Monday, Jan. 7, RCMP officers made 14 arrests while dismantling a checkpoint protesting an LNG pipeline project near Houston, B.C. The pipeline project in question called The Coastal Gas Link is planned to run between Kitimat and near Dawson Creek.
A sacred fire was lit in Neskonlith Hall on Jan. 6. A statement from the Neskonlith band says the fire is meant to symbolize support for the Wet’suwet’en as they face harassment and intimidation by a militarized police force poised to infringe on the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
“The Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en land defenders are standing in defense of their Indigenous human rights, as set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to self-determination, to protect their lands, cultures and wellbeing and to a process which respects their free, prior and informed consent on all matters impacting Indigenous Title and Rights,” the statement reads.
“The steadfast protection of our shared environment, territories and natural resources are a sacred responsibility shared by all peoples,” stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band. “Yet the brunt of the provincial and federal governments’ blind actions to prop up extractive resource industries continues to be borne by Indigenous land defenders, who only seek the protection of our lands and the health and well-being of all communities that depend on a healthy environment. Now is the time to stand up in support of Indigenous land defenders, human rights, the environment and the well-being of all our communities.”
“We are in a critical state of emergency dealing with the impacts of climate change, social injustices and huge disparity in social determinants of health,” said Secwepemc teacher Dawn Morrison in a written statement.
“This includes loss of control in decision making in matters impacting our traditional land and food system, as well as social issues such as poverty, increased violence against our women and high rates of death from substance abuse in our communities,” she added.
Morrison, who is the founder of a working group on Indigenous food sovereignty, also wrote that many of the issues at play in Northern B.C. are mirrored in the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion which runs through Secwepemc traditional territory.
“The health of all Peoples downstream relies heavily on our ability to protect clean drinking water, both of which are at risk from both climate change and spills from the TransMountain pipeline that are inevitable.”