If you have already registered to visit the camp, here is some important info to think about. Camp volunteers are a mix indigenous and non-indigenous people. The info below is intended help inform non-indigenous visitors about working in solidarity with First Nations. Volunteers will also meet or have a phone call with you before your visit, to discuss this information and any questions you may have.
Who are the Wet’suwet’en, Unist’ot’en, and the camp hosts?
The camp is located on unceded territory. No treaties have been made to surrender or “cede” Wet’suwet’en territory to Canada. The indigenous people here have occupied their land continuously since time immemorial. They were never defeated in war or driven from their land, and they did not sell the land or give it away. The Supreme Court has ruled that indigenous people retain title to their land. Only a few indigenous nations in BC have settled their land claims by treaty with the government. The rest never signed treaties, and they were not defeated in war or driven from their territories. The land is still (and always) indigenous land.
The Wet’suwet’en First Nation spent 14 years in the BC Treaty Process trying to negotiate with the federal and provincial government. They left the process in 2010, citing the government’s position that they would have to give up 95% of their land and abandon all future claims.
The people in charge of Unis’tot’en Camp are the clan mothers. The Unis’to’ten Clan is matrilineal.
Freda Huson, spokesperson and leader of the camp
The mothers, grandmothers, aunties, chiefs and elders of the Unis’tot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu – Big Frog) Clan.
Lhe Lin Liyin – the Guardians
Wedzin Kwah – Morice River, the eastern boundary of Unis’tot’en territory
Talbits Kwah – Gosnell Creek (flows into Morice River)
Tse Wedi Elh – Rocks Flowing, the place where the camp is located
Pacific Trail Pipeline (PTP) is a gas project that is first in a series of pipelines planned to cross the Wedzin Kwah. It would bring gas from fracking fields in northeastern BC to Kitimat on the coast, along the same route Enbridge and several other tarsands and gas pipelines plan to use. If they are built, the pipelines right-of-way would be three kilometer wide through hundreds of kilometers of wetlands, streams, and forests.
Band council vs. the people
The Wet’suwet’en First Nation, as defined by the Indian Act, groups several clans under one elected chief and council. Elections are every two years and the council is paid by Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Anyone can be elected chief, even non-indigenous people.
The Wet’suwet’en chief and council, representing a small fraction of the membership, have given permission for the PTP in exchange for a promise of millions of dollars in dividends. At the same time, the band council is part of a coalition called the Yinka Dine Alliance, which opposes the Enbridge pipeline that would run alongside PTP.
Our clan hosts say the band did not consult them on PTP, and the hereditary chiefs of all the clans are united against the pipelines. They have pledged to defend their traditional territory as they’ve done since time immemorial.
RESOURCES ON ALLYSHIP and SOLIDARITY
Ally Bill of Responsibilities
© Dr. Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe
- Do not act out of guilt, but rather out of a genuine interest in challenging the larger oppressive power structures;
- Understand that they are secondary to the Indigenous people that they are working with and that they seek to serve. They and their needs must take a back seat;
- Are fully grounded in their own ancestral history and culture. Effective allies must sit in this knowledge with confidence and pride; otherwise the “wannabe syndrome” could merely undermine the Indigenous people’s efforts;
- Are aware of their privileges and openly discuss them. This action will also serve to challenge larger oppressive power structures;
- Reflect on and embrace their ignorance of the group’s oppression and always hold this ignorance in the forefront of their minds. Otherwise, a lack of awareness of their ignorance could merely perpetuate the Indigenous people’s oppression;
- Are aware of and understand the larger oppressive power structures that serve to hold certain groups and people down. One way to do this is to draw parallels through critically reflecting on their own experiences with oppressive power structures. Reflecting on their subjectivity in this way, they ensure critical thought or what others call objectivity. In taking this approach, these parallels will serve to ensure that non-Indigenous allies are not perpetuating the oppression;
- Constantly listen and reflect through the medium of subjectivity and critical thought versus merely their subjectivity. This will serve to ensure that they avoid the trap that they or their personal friends know what is best. This act will also serve to avoid the trap of naively following a leader or for that matter a group of leaders;
- Strive to remain critical thinkers and seek out the knowledge and wisdom of the critical thinkers in the group. Allies cannot assume that all people are critical thinkers and have a good understanding of the larger power structures of oppression;
- Ensure that a community consensus, or understanding, has been established in terms of their role as allies. Otherwise, the efforts of the people will be undermined due to a lack of consultation and agreement;
- Ensure that the needs of the most oppressed – women, children, elderly, young teenage girls and boys, and the disabled – are served in the effort or movement that they are supporting. Otherwise, they may be engaging in a process that is inadequate and thus merely serving to fortify the larger power structures of oppression. Alternatively, their good intentions may not serve those who need the effort most. Rather, they may be making the oppression worse;
- Understand and reflect on the prevalence and dynamics of lateral oppression and horizontal violence on and within oppressed groups and components of the group, such as women, and seek to ensure that their actions do not encourage it;
- Ensure that they are supporting a leader’s, group of leaders’, or a movement’s efforts that serve the needs of the people. For example, do the community people find this leader’s efforts useful, interesting, engaging, and thus empowering? If not, allies should consider whether the efforts are moving in a questionable or possibly an inadequate direction, or worse yet that their efforts are being manipulated and thus undermined, possibly for economic and political reasons;
- Understand that sometimes allies are merely manipulatively chosen to further a leader’s agenda versus the Indigenous Nations’, communities’, or organizations’ concerns, and when this situation occurs act accordingly;
- Do not take up the space and resources, physical and financial, of the oppressed group;
- Do not take up time at community meetings and community events. This is not their place. They must listen more than speak. Allies cannot perceive all the larger oppressive power structures as clearly as members of the oppressed group can; And finally,
- Accept the responsibility of learning and reading more about their role as effective allies.
From Unsettling America:
We share these points of unity to guide our allyship and activism:
All people not indigenous to North America who are living on this continent are settlers on stolen land. We acknowledge that Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central & South America were founded through genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples-which continues today and from which settlers directly benefit.
All settlers do not benefit equally from the settler-colonial state, nor did all settlers emigrate here of their own free will. Specifically, we see slavery, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, market imperialism, and capitalist class structures as among the primary tools of colonization. These tools divide communities and determine peoples’ relative access to power. Therefore, anti-oppression solidarity between settler communities is necessary for decolonization. We work to build anti-colonial movements that actively combat all forms of oppression.
We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.
As settlers and non-native people (by which we mean non-indigenous to this hemisphere) acting in solidarity, it is our responsibility to proactively challenge and dismantle colonialist thought and behavior in the communities we identify ourselves to be part of. As people within communities that maintain and benefit from colonization, we are intimately positioned to do this work.
We understand that allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with. We organize our solidarity efforts around direct communication, responsiveness, and accountability to indigenous people fighting for decolonization and liberation.
We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves. Individually and as a collective, we work compassionately to support each other through these processes. Participation in struggle requires each of us to engage in both solidarity and our own liberation: to be accountable for all privileges carried, while also struggling for liberation from internalized and experienced oppression. We seek to build a healthy culture of resistance, accountability, and sustenance.
To go deeper into understanding issues of privilege and colonialism here are a few suggested resources. But feel free to continue your reading with the many sources on the internet or in libraries. Of course the best learning comes from questioning, listening and doing.
Mi’kmaw Warrior Sakej Ward addresses “De-colonizing the colonizer” in this 56 minute video. Highly informative, uncompromising and delivered with his usual ironic sense of humour. Set aside a quiet hour and enjoy! http://www.realpeoplesmedia.org/news/2016/1/13/sakej-ward-decolonizing-the-colonizer
Anti-racist and migrant activist Harsha Walia talks about Anti-Oppression, Decolonization, and Responsible Allyship. Just over 10 minutes but packed with insights and practical advice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGqhgRr66ng
Cherokee teacher, writer and activist Andrea Smith addresses “The Problem with Privilege” in this thoughtful essay. https://andrea366.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/the-problem-with-privilege-by-andrea-smith/