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Indigenous land defenders have established a checkpoint on Wet'suwet'en territory to block TransCanada's construction of a fracked gas pipeline through traditional lands. (Photo: Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidumt'en Territory/Facebook)

As Canadian Police Target Pipeline Protesters on First Nations Territory, Solidarity Actions Planned Across North America

"The land defenders holding the front lines have no intention of allowing Wet'suwet'en sovereignty to be violated."

Jessica Corbett

As Canadian police forces try to enforce a court injunction backing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Wet'suwet'en territory, a First Nations group has vowed to not back down from protecting what they see as unceded land and their supporters have announced dozens of solidarity actions scheduled for Tuesday in cities across North America.

Ahead of the demonstrations in Canada and the United States, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday arrived at a checkpoint erected by the Indigenous land defenders designed to prevent TransCanada from constructing its Coastal GasLink pipeline through what the protesters have described as "some of the most beautiful and pristine territory in the world."

"We are now preparing for a protracted struggle," the protesters said in a statement before facing the RCMP. "The hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en and the land defenders holding the front lines have no intention of allowing Wet'suwet'en sovereignty to be violated."

While TransCanada maintains that it has reached all required agreements with the First Nation's elected band council to construct the pipeline in the remote area of British Columbia, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters assert that council authority only covers the reserve and doesn't apply to the traditional lands that the Indigenous protesters are trying to protect.

As Chief Madeek, hereditary leader of the Wet'suwet'en nation's Gidimt'en clan, told CBC, "They're not the title holders or the caretakers of the land. The hereditary chiefs are."

Summing up the Indigenous group's opposition to the pipeline company's sustained effort to move forward with construction, Madeek declared at a news conference on Sunday, "We want them right off Wet'suwet'en territory."

The interim injunction issued by B.C. Supreme Court in December initially came in response to anti-pipeline camp by another Wet'suwet'en clan, the Unist'ot'en, who had been "blocking a remote logging road the company says it needs to access," according to CBC. Support for those fighting against the pipeline has grown since the injunction.

"This is what we're here for, is to protect the 22,000 square kilometers and this section of the territory for our grandchildren and our great-great-grandchildren that aren't even born yet so they can enjoy what we enjoy today out on the territory," explained Madeek.

Now, "as militarized RCMP are descending onto unceded Wet'suwet'en to enforce a colonial court injunction, rallies in 30 cities expressing solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en will take place on Tuesday," a press statement announced Monday. "We oppose the use of legal injunctions, police forces, and criminalizing state tactics against the Wet'suwet'en asserting their own laws on their own lands."

"This is a historic moment when the federal and provincial governments can choose to follow their stated principles of reconciliation, or respond by perpetuating colonial theft and violence in Canada," the statement continued, calling on both government entities to recognize their lack of jurisdiction on Wet'suwet'en land and "uphold their responsibility to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by revoking permits for this fracked gas pipeline."

Participants in the actions scheduled for Tuesday plan to post updates on social media with the hashtags #wetsuwetenstrong, #notrespass, and #thetimeisnow.

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