I Stood Between Shell and the Arctic—Join Me

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I Stood Between Shell and the Arctic—Join Me

Musqueam First Nation activist Audrey Siegl protests in front of Polar Pioneer, a Shell Arctic rig currently off the coast of Vancouver Island and making its way to Alaska. (Photo: Greenpeace)

On Wednesday morning off the coast of British Columbia, I went face to face with Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer. It was terrifying. But there are moments in life when—despite your fear—you must act.

Standing in my tiny inflatable boat, feeling small and vulnerable as Shell’s rig approached, I had to steady myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Feeling the waves and cold wind being out there on the open waters, I was reminded of exactly what I am protecting. I chose to stand there and use my voice to express my opposition to the devastating work Shell’s rig is on its way to do in the Arctic.

The truth is, I am angry.

I am angry that, yet again, the voice of the people is being ignored. I am angry that corporations like Shell continue with their Arctic drilling plans despite more than 7 million people telling them to stop. I am angry that the best interests of the people are being shoved aside to accommodate corporate greed.


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I am scared that our future is being sacrificed for oil companies that would seal our fate away with catastrophic climate change to pad their own profits.

Despite all this, I will not be made to feel powerless again.

The First Nations have had our rights and freedom stripped from us for centuries. We are the original stewards of this land and water. For that reason, I will continue to use my voice and presence to protect what is sacred. If that means staring down an enormous machine in the middle of the ocean, I’ll do it. All I have is my voice, my body and the truth I speak.

I will not be bullied or coerced into silence and inaction.

The truth is that we—the people—can turn this thing around. When we unite, become one and move with open minds and hearts, we are unstoppable. When we connect and stand as an indivisible and determined force for good, we can only succeed.

As a First Nations woman, I no longer accept inhumane treatment and violations that have been forced on my people for centuries. I no longer accept the lies that have been served up as truth for centuries. We have been duped into believing that we have no power and no say from corporations like Shell. The truth is that we do have power. We do have a say.

We cannot stand idly by and let the destruction continue.

People Vs. Oil

People Vs. Oil

Shell places itself in opposition to all land defenders by pushing through with its Arctic drilling plans. Shell places itself in opposition to the First Nations who have emphatically said ‘no’ to Arctic Drilling. I stand with thousands of years of ancestors to say ‘no more.’ I stand with indigenous women from around the world to say ‘no more.’

We are the life-givers. We are reclaiming our power. We are reclaiming our dignity. We are reclaiming our rightful place on the lands we love and the sea that we care for.  We stand for preserving and protecting the land and water that have sustained life since the first sunrise.

We will carry on the work of my ancestors.

Whether in the Arctic, in Canada, in Asia, in South America, in Europe or anywhere in the world, we must unite and empower each other and ourselves. Our job is to use our voices and presence to shine a light on injustice. We must be indivisible. We must always know what we are up against. Even more importantly, we must know what we are protecting.

That is why we must unite and be one in our fight together.

Audrey Siegel

Audrey Siegel is an activist, artist, and member of the Musqueam Nation.

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