The Unist’ot’en, part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, have once again prohibited further development on territory south of Houston, claiming it is unceded First Nation land.
For their stance, the Unist’ot’en are receiving wide-spread support in the form of rallies across North America and have even sent Freda Huson abroad to spread the message of their plight.
In Smithers more than 20 people gathered in front of the Royal Bank (RBC) on Main Street because RBC invested nearly $4 billion towards pipeline development, according to a Unist’ot’en pamphlet distributed at the rally.
“Right now we’re in Gitumden territory,” Mel Bazil said, acknowledging the Wet’suwet’en stewards of the area where Smithers sits.
“The Gitumden are responsible for this land and the shared responsibility of all people while we’re here.”
Although it is clear the Unist’ot’en have support at the grassroots level, support from corporations and the senior level of government is lacking, Bazil said.
“These companies, these banks, these governments are not asking permission,” Bazil said.
“The’yre telling us, ‘this is our process and you can join our process and you can acknowledge us as the keepers of these lands.’”
“That’s not where we’re at.”
The Unist’ot’en presented Apache Canada with an eagle feather, which represents a first and only notice of trespass, on Nov. 20, 2012 along the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline route.
Some Unist’ot’en members built a log cabin along the proposed pipeline route and they don’t plan on leaving until they are certain developers get their message.
The Unist’ot’en put out a call to help develop international support for their cause.
Rallies in Ottawa, Toronto, Victoria, Vancouver, Prince George, California, New York and at Apache’s headquarters in Houston, Texas, were all held at noon last Tuesday.
Huson was in Trinidad and Tobago to speak at an environmental conference while the protests in her homeland were taking place.
“I shared my peoples’ struggle in Canada,” Huson said.
“About how government and industry continue to issue permits for projects that destroy our lands.”
Persistence is necessary when dealing with industry and government, according to Adam Gagnon, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief.
“I fought the fight along with the Gitxsan back in the 80s for fishery rights,” Gagnon said at the RBC rally.
“It took a while, but we ended up taking control of our fishery.”
“If we didn’t do that we’d still be getting pushed around by Department of Fisheries.”
Gagnon is looking forward to re-instating Wet’suwet’en traditional laws regarding the environment.
“It’s up to us to take responsibility and enforce our zero-tolerance laws on all the streams and rivers.”
The proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline will cross two major salmon spawning areas on the Witzinkwa (Morice) River, which is potentially detrimental to a staple Wet’suwet’en food source, according to Huson.