Colonialism Dies Hard: Clueless Oil Pipeline Officials Seek Thousands of Acres of Virgin Native Lands In Exchange For Beads and Trinkets
This summer, after five years of building and steadfastly maintaining an encampment built to resist up to eleven proposed oil and gas pipelines through vast tracts of centuries-old unceded territory in western Canada, a group of indigenous Unist’ot’en people have faced escalating police and industry challenges to their occupation, from drones to helicopters to surveyors seeking access. The Unis’tot’en are said to be the original claimants to the rich Wet’suwet’en Territories, which include the Rocky Mountains, the Great Bear Rainforest, and some of the cleanest fresh-water rivers in the world. All of that is threatened, they and many others charge, by the Canadian government's conditional approval of a host of new pipelines through Unist'ot'en territory, from Enbridge's dual Northern Gateway to at least 11 other proposed pipelines; all would move tar-sands oil and liquified fracking gas containing bitumen, hydrocarbons, and other toxic chemicals from Alberta's tar sands to coastal tankers - unless, of course, some spills en route.
Canada's approval of the pipelines was wildly unpopular among residents of British Columbia, with a coalition of environmental groups - and even some tar-sands advocates - citing the egregious possible hazards of the route. The Unist’ot’en cite not only the threat to water, salmon, wildlife, traditional medicines and overall survival of the land for future generations, but the violation of the sovereignty of unsurrendered territories, and the intrusion of colonial law into lands still governed by native laws. Thus, residents of the camp - built at the juncture of several proposed lines and then moved when their route was changed, and boasting several cabins, daily chores, solar energy and local pleasures like bear pontine pizza - stress they are not protesting or blockading but occupying their own homeland, much like decades of other acts of resistance aimed at protecting indigenous lands. They are doing this, insists their fiery leader Freda Huson, not just for their own people but "for humanity."
Over the years, the Unist'ot'en supporters have held rallies, marches, speaking tours and Frontlines Beat Pipelines fundraisers, with one coming up in September. Those at the camp have also faced off against industry legal challenges, press misinformation, arrest threats from police for blocking a “public road,” RCMP intrusions demanding entry for survey work crews, low-flying drone and helicopter surveillance by unknown parties, and visits from pipeline officials, who were turned away. In the latest encounter, four stonily polite Chevron representatives in safety vests turned up at their checkpoint, seeking entry.
In surreal video, they repeatedly ask for access, and Huson calmly, repeatedly tells them they have failed to respect established consent and access protocols on land that remains under native jurisdiction. After several minutes of impasse, one trying-hard-to-be-conciliatory rep explains they have brought an "offering." Then he unveils their lavish gift: a stack of bottled water, with tobacco sitting on top of it. After a brief WTF? pause by the Unist'ot'en, Huson carefully explains they have plenty of good clean water thanks, and that all that plastic is (duh) part of what they're fighting in order to save the lands that belong to them and their children. Her steely summary: "These are ours, and we decide what happens here." Watch, and donate.