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Understanding the Wet'suwet'en situation in Canadian Permaculture and Politics

 
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There is a big story going on in the last month in Canada and the Wet'suwet'en territory.  The story is extremely complicated and sad, but also hopeful.  The story has gained international attention, and centers near where I live, and also even closer to where I grew up.  Here's a link to a brief CBC Canadian Broadcasting Company overview of the situation.  Why is this permaculture?  Because these people lived on their territory for thousands of years in abundance-period.

Once upon a time, way before Canada and British Columbia existed, there were indigenous nations with their own boundaries and laws. In British Columbia (B.C.) alone there were 195 Nations, each with their own laws.  The Wet'suwet'en are one such nation.

When the march of colonial progress headed west across the continent, a series of agreements, called Treaties were signed by many nations in Canada.  Many of these were signed under duress or were not well understood by the people signing them.  To top that off, the Canadian government and the provincial governments within Canada have not honored even these treaties in many regards.  B.C. was created as a province before any treaties were signed this far west. The result is that these lands are literally unceded (not surrendered, not a part of Canada/B.C.), and yet the provincial and federal governments have put their blinders on to this fact and gone on with the colonial process as if the land was signed away.

The Canadian Government has done a lot of things to try to erradicate the problem of having these people on the land, besides simply ignoring them.  The government passed laws which criminalized many parts of their culture, including their religions, their way of dressing for ceremony, and their way of governance.  The government forced them onto reservations which are a small fraction of their lands.  They took their children to church led residential schools or adopted them into colonist homes.  The children were punished for speaking their own languages, or behaving in the manner of their culture.  The government created a new system of government (called Band Councils) within all the nations which was democratic but was primarily imposed upon them to remove the traditional power structures within the nations.  The Band Councils have authority over adminstration on the reservations only.   In B.C. the traditional power structures were predominantly matriarchal clans with Hereditary Chiefs.  These Hereditary Chiefs have the task of stewarding the land of the greater territory.  

The job of the Hereditary Chiefs is basically permaculture.  The idea is to create a space so that people can live forever on the land. They went to court with the province of B.C. which ignorantly refused to recognise their oral history or system of tradional government.  They Chief took it to Canada's Supreme Court, and won.   This took over 20 years and millions of (un-necessary) legal fees.  It is commonly known as Delgamuukw after the primary defendant.  It was not a treaty.  It just laid down the idea that the rights and responsibilities of the Hereditary Chiefs existed and continue to exist as they were never ceded.

The United Nations created the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says that free prior and informed consent must be given for projects to go forward on Indigenous land.

The Northern Gateway Dilbit (Diluted Bitumen, or Oil sands material that has been separated from solids and made liquid with solvents) Pipeline was going to go through this part of the province and not only the indiItgenous population, but the colonist communities said no, and it was quashed.  Now the province of B.C. (and Alberta-as it is heavily invested in the project) is trying to put a natural gas pipeline through the area with the company Coastal Gaslink being the proponant.  They consulted with the hereditary chiefs, and they decided that this pipeline posed a lot less risk than the dilbit line opposed earlier.  They, however did not like the route.  It would dominate a valley which has trade trail that was thousands of years old.  This trail contains memorial sites and other culturally important areas.  

The Heritary Chiefs suggested an alternate route, one that other gas companies had thought might work for other projects which did not get approval.  The Gas company decided unilaterally to dismiss this change in thier plans.  They decided to go to the Band Councils and seek approval of their route that way, circumventing the authority of the Hereditary Chiefs.  Because the majority of the people in these nations live in the reservations, and they are democratically elected, this seems like a reasonable idea.  Except that they have no jurisdiction to make that decision. It would be like consulting the mayors of a few cities to decide upon a project that doesn't go anywhere near the cities.   There's that.  The reservations have been in a desparate state of financial and cultural despair.  The agreement they signed could be equated to throwing a rope to somenone in a whirlpool.  Of course they are going to take it.  All the band councils of all the nations on the pipeline route from Dawson Creek in the Northeast Corner of B.C. to the port of Kitimat on B.C.'s North Coast signed onto the project.  The majority of Hereditary Chiefs along the route did not.

But it was this one nation's Hereditary Chiefs that stood up and said no.  They were the ones at the forefront of the struggle to stop the other pipeline proposals, and they have much in the way of legal authority to do so.  They created a camp on the boundary of one of the Chief's territory called Unist'ot'en.  Here's an old Youtube post from the camp.


Here's a piece written by the lawyers representing the people of Unist'ot'en. [url=Here%27s a piece was written by the lawyers which are representing the Unistoten Camp.  First People%27s Law ]First People's Law[/url]

In the past few weeks there has been protests and railway and highway blockades in support of the Hereditary Chiefs and their checkpoints at Unist'ot'en and Gitemdem and a lot of good and bad information in the press about this situation.  Many people both from Wet'suwet'en Nation and other Nations who have stood up in support as well as other Canadian immigrant folks have been arrested.

I have been following this story since I was a child and have been involved in trying to spread good information on the topic this month.  I started this thread to post some of what I personally consider to be the better bits that are out in the media.  

The governments of B.C. and Canada are currently in much anticipated and much needed talks with the Hereditary Chiefs in the town of Smithers, B.C..  Here's hoping.  
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Taylor Bachrach was raised in the community that I currently reside.  He was formerly mayor of Smithers B.C..  He is currently Federal Member of Parliament (MP) for the region in question.




Elizabeth May is, in my opinion, the Queen of Green Politics in Canada.  She is the first Green Party Member of Parliament in Canada and is the most eloquent poignant speaker in the House of Commons, in my humble opinion,  Here's her response to our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau's take on the topic.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Here is an article by an award-winning journalist from the  CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which explains Coastal Gaslink's rejection of the Hereditary Chief's alternate route.

And another excellent piece from Macleans Magazine  explaining further.  A lot of great stuff in this piece.

Here is a facebook link to the Unistoten post with a video that speaks strongly about the Canada-wide support and blockades that have stalled Canada's economy. When all else fails, shut down the rails



 
Roberto pokachinni
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If anybody has any questions about this situation, please ask.  I might know the answer, or might be able to find it with my contacts.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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The Mohawk Nation has stood up for the Wet'suwet'en in this protest against the wrongful occupation of their land.  

Their own territory is unceded as well.  

They were the ones who were blocking the railway tracks that serve all of Eastern Canada.

Because of the stalling and lack of appropriate action (the total removal of the occupying Royal Canadian Mounted Police from Wet'suwet'en land, the ceasing of all activity by Coastal Gaslink, and Nation to Nation dialog on the part of the Federal  and Provincial Governments), the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) decided to enforce the court injunction that was sought by CN rail to end the blockade at Tyendinaga  

The following is the story of one of the young mohawk who stood in the face of those police.  

Please note, I am not anti-police.  I am a person, however, who understands that legal does not mean moral, and that other laws need to be protected which supersede the laws of Canada, which existed before the laws of Canada.  And those laws have no protection if the police do not acknowledge them.   Also, the police should be made to understand that peaceful protest must not be met with violence.  They could easily have taken this man away with their numbers, and instead, like brutes and oppressors, they beat him.  

Here is Nick Kolbasook's story of the arrest:
 
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I've been reading many accounts both the Maclean's articles and some news articles.

Do you think that this issue has become a symbol to all our Indigenous about the systematic abuse they've suffered over the last 100+ years, and the lack of substantial access to reconciliation and healing? It seems to me that we have a group of people who's language and culture has been severely damaged, and just as with drug addicts, our system has tended to incarcerate rather than treat the problem with quality, local, culturally sensitive support?

 
Roberto pokachinni
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What I think is that there has been a vast and gross injustice done to the First People's of the planet, and specifically to the peoples of this land that we live on, Jay.

The United Nations tried to address it by laying out their UNDRIP United Nations Declaration For the Rights of Indigenous People in September 2007.   This was a template for governments to follow to honorably address indigenous concerns. From the UN's site: "It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples." Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand were against the declaration.  It was more than three years before Canada signed on. It took British Columbia 12 years.  

The Wet'suwet'en stood beside and supported the Mohawk Nation at Oka when I was a much younger man, and now the Mohawks have returned the favor.  This young man in the previous post was one of those who stood on his own land to defend the Wet'suwet'en cause.  A good friend of mine, my age, was the youngest on the front lines at Oka.  To understand that struggle in depth, if you are interested, you can read all about it from the public library by requesting the book:  People of the Pines: The Warriors and Legacy of Oka

To answer your question, I'd have to say that my thinking about your question... my short answer, without putting words in other people's mouth is: yes.  Now to elaborate: I think, and this is my impression and opinion, that many, if not the vast majority than a very high number of the 1.5 million indigenous people in Canada, are seeing what is going on, and feel a sense of solidarity with the cause of the Wet'suwet'en, not just because they see it as a single unjust case, but because they understand the gross injustice, the disrespect, and the diliberate trespass that has been endured by all indigenous peoples in countless ways.  

And I would say that they feel this on a deeper level.  It resonates in their own lives, in their own nation, in the own village, reservation, or family.  Colonization is written in the poverty, in the day to day struggle, in cyclical violence in families, in the dependence, in the self abuse, it is written in a thousand sad ways, but the resistance and upswelling of pride in who they are and what they stand for is also being written in the strengths of the youth and the elders, and of the people who speak for the land, and who stand with them to help them defend it.  

The story of Canada is constantly being written.  What story we will have in a hundred years might be very different depending on how the ripples of this situation extend and affect into the lives of the nation of Canada and beyond.  

It's a pretty big deal, the way I think of it, and not because this whole situation has caused them to shut down part of the economy--That's a hiccup in comparison to having denied these people the justice that they have deserved since the immigrant nations landed here.  My question when I am confronted with that line of reasoning is: What has been the economic impact of not having these 1.5 million people being engaged with honorably and fully as part of our economy?-Instead of being viewed as an inconvenient burden and a relic of the past-which seems to be the standard opposing view that promotes business as usual, in spite of them, what would it have been like to have respect them and honoured them with a relationship of trust and good faith?  I think they all understand this, even if they do not articulate it.  They know it on a much deeper level than I could possibly explain in words.

Our system tends to ignore, to abuse, to refuse, and to deny, somehow it justifies doing this also to our country's own constitution, it's own supreme court rulings, it's own pledges in elections that the Nation to Nation relationship is the highest priority and that reconciliation is the highest priority.  Our system, right now, the way I see it, lives a lie, and the Wet'suwet'en are calling them on the lie, and the other nations, and the indigenous people's within those nations are watching.


     
 
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"What we are doing is demanding the bare minimum from Canada, and standing against injustice, and doing so with love in our hearts, love for our lands, and we should not face arrest for that.  We are unarmed indigenous youth and we are trying to faciliatate a good faith conversation between Wet'suwet'en and the Canadian Government.  And the Canadian Government has denied and refused to engage in a good way and has instead employed paramilitary invasions, surveillence tactics, intimidation tactics.  These are coercive measures and they are not conducive to consent.  Indigenous consent can not come with a gun from the other end.  So, we are standing here.  We are asking you to witness our prayers, and our songs, and our presence  because we do not want to get arrested for standing for what is right. And for standing for the future generations of these police here, and for standing for the future generations of all who are witnessing- Witnessing us defending the land, because we are not protestors, we are the land defending itself."  Ta’Kaiya Blaney, from the Tla'Amin First Nation----from the opening remarks recorded in this video

link to the Indigenous Youth at the B.C. Legislature
 
Roberto pokachinni
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    photos of indigenous activists at the ceremonial entrance to the Briitsh Columbia Legislature.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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The following is a  link to CTV coverage of Indigenous Youth on the steps of the B.C. Legislature.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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So, the Federal and Provincial governments and the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs have finished the first round of their meetings.  They still do not agree about the pipeline, but have reached a proposed arrangement to acknowledge land title rights established more than 20 years ago in the Supreme Court's Delgamuukw decision.  This is very great historic news!  If you have interest, Here is a CBC news story  reporting it.  We'll see how the houses of the clans respond to the proposal.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Back Ground Overview/Big Picture Explainers: A few articles from the publication the Narwhal (an amazing source of independent journalism) for a deeper look at what is going on with tying all the current mega projects (Hydraulic Fracturing, Site C dam, Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, and the Natural Gas Liquification and Export Terminal) in my province together into one massive boodoggle (work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value) of an environmental and tax-payer burden.

There is also a ridiculous amount of money involved, including billions in taxpayer money and the vested interests of 5 giant multinationals.

These articles give a pretty good overview of the whole industrial mess in a nutshell, and the sort of lobbying power that this tiny Nation is up against.

This includes the Site C Dam (currently under construction).  This dam will flood 31,538 acres, 60% of which is prime agricultural land:

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) of the the aquifer zones to release gas trapped in layers (this poisons the aquifer and has been proven to destabilize the stratified layers of shale and thus to cause earthquakes).  The 'natural gas' as it is known releases massive amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas 30 times as potent as CO2), particularly at leaky well sites.  There are many of orphaned abandoned wells in this province. :


Tying the megaprojects together

Leaky Wells

6 Awkward Realities


 
Roberto pokachinni
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Another Great Narwhal article  ...plus the images, speak a thousand words.  

 
Roberto pokachinni
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A quote from the text of the article in my previous post:

The B.C. government and corporate lobbyists representing major resource industries sought the “surrender” of First Nations land rights immediately following the Delgamuukw decision, a precedent-setting legal ruling that established Aboriginal title to unceded land, according to Freedom of Information (FOI) documents obtained by The Narwhal.

The records, from B.C.’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, provide a glimpse for the first time of a corporate lobbying effort urging government to push First Nations to surrender their newly recognized title rights through modern treaties to achieve “certainty” for commercial interests.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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So, while the entire country is in an increasing lockdown, and physical distancing is being normalized in socieity, and while small businesses all over Canada are being forced to shut down, and many are going to go bankrupt before this Covid 19 catastrophe is done, much of corporate reality is going on, business as usual.  Well not quite usual; they have put in protocols and changed things somewhat, but here's the addition to the story:  Communities in the North do not have the health care faciliites to deal with a pandemic, and the most vulnerable of all these are the First Nation's communities, and the most vulnerable of these are the elders in those Nations.

This from the Unist'ot'en Camp's Public Facebook Page.  If you click on the video link where the image is a big indigenous guy standing in front of bulldozed snow, with the caption "Coastal Gaslink Continues Working On Unist'ot'en Terri..."  Or just watch the video Here.    The text after the video if you went to the page is this:  

  As Canadians are being told to stay home to stop the spread of Covid 19, Coastal Gaslink continues work as usual on our territories. RCMP continue to be flown in from across the province to escort pipeline workers onto our unceded lands, pipelines are being stockpiled, and the pipeline right of way is being cleared on Unist'ot'en, Gidimt'en and Lihkts'amisyu territories.

BC has shut down large gatherings and declared a state of emergency, but Coastal Gaslink keeps bringing in large numbers of workers onto our territory. Our Wet'suwet'en homesites and healing center are on lock down. Our clan meetings, to discuss our rights and title with our communities, have all been postponed. Meanwhile, we face a steady stream of transient workers and RCMP who put our people and communities - and especially our elders - at risk. Our elders are keepers of cultural knowledge and language.

Indigenous communities are already at increased risk from this pandemic, due to a lack of adequate health care and housing infrastructure. CGL and RCMP's actions are compromising our health and safety. They are carrying on with business as usual, acting as though they are above the law and above common decency.


This is unacceptable. CGL must be stopped.

#WetsuwetenStrong

Supporter toolkit: http://unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit2020/

Donate to the frontlines:

Unist'ot'en: www.unistoten.camp/donate

Gidimt'en: www.yintahaccess.com/



There is a CHANGE.ORG petition to sign, calling on the health and political authorities in the province to stop the functioning of these large man-camps in Northern B.C. Sign Here Help Them (and all of us in this province) Out


 
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Thanks for the updates. Signed that, and will spread it around in the AM.

Absolutely disgusting to take advantage of a pandemic to press ahead while responsible people are staying home. The increased covid risk this action brings is really the icing on the cake.
 
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