Why are Indigenous Peoples Blocking the Railways?
(And why it's important!)
Original text by Chloloula on Twitter, English translation by Lexicos
Transcription here by me. Please boost, or repost under appropriate content warnings. But also think about if you want to, and how you can, support these efforts yourself. Good luck, and thank you.
It can be hard to untangle the /causes/ of the blockades and the Indigenous Peoples' /anger/.
- /We live in parallel realities/ and know very little about each other.
- There are BIG parts of /our history/ that /we don't know/.
- Many /prejudices/ persist and are spread by the media.
- The media tend to focus on the /consequences/ of the blockades and little on their /causes/.
We need to take a look back in time...
that you have a beautiful home and you welcome strangers who were lost.
[residents, to guests]:"Have you eaten?"
Then, without even saying /thank you/, they quickly take possession of the house, impose their laws on you, and lock you in the basement.
["guests"]: "Heyyy! This is /our home/ here!
["residents"]: "Uh... what's going on?"
/How would you feel?/
Unfortunately, this metaphor shows too well the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples
Let's take a closer look...
In 1763, a Royal Proclamation established a constitutional foundation for white/Indigenous relations. Recognition of nation status and the Crown's responsibility to have consent when settling new lands.
In 1867, the Canadian constitution, in Article 91(24), established that the Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative authority in relations with Indigenous Peoples
In 1876, the "Savages Act," later the "Indian Act," was passed with the objective of dispossession of Indigenous territory and assimilation. Indigenous Peoples are placed nuder the guardianship of the State.
In 1982, Section 35 of the Repatriation of the Constitution said the existing ancestral or treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples are /recognized/ and /confirmed/.
In 1997, the "Delgamuukw Decision," a Supreme Court judgement, recognized the ancestral rights of Indigenous Peoples over their territories as well as their traditional leadership. This means that unceded territories are under Indigenous jurisdiction.
North British Columbia is home to /indomitable/ people.
On unceded territory, the Unist'ot'en camp was built in 2010.
The aim is to make their presence on the territory visible, even though they have occupied it for more than 1,000 years.
This is a way of protesting against the threat of pipelines that several industries want to pass through their 22,000km^2 territory, which, it should be remembered, is /recognized as belonging to the Wet'suwet'en nation and under its jurisdiction./
The Wet'suwet'en have many reasons to be concerned about pipelines.
As nomadic people on an extremely rich territory, their lifestyle is intimately linked to:
These projects threaten the entire ecosystem
Marlene Hale, a Wet'suwet'en person who lives in Montreal, says, "How is a moose supposed to cross a pipeline? A few years ago, there were three million salmon coming up the rivers. Each family had enough to get through the winter. There were 10,000 fish for a distribution of two fish per house."
"Because we have a relationship with the land, we are the first to see the changes. We are the canaries in the mine," says Melissa Mollen Dupuis, an Inuit activist.
The current threat is called "the Coastal Gaslink Project." It's:
- A 670km pipeline to transport shale gas to an LNG terminal for export to Asia.
- $40 billion project
- producing 8 million tonnes of co2: about 856,831 new cars, or 5% of the province's co2 emissions
On shale gas[, fracking]:
- soil fragmentation
- uses a lot of water
- toxic products used and not disclosed
- risk of impact on water tables
- less profitable
While Canada is far from meeting its co2 reduction targets for 2030, it is imperative to reduce emissions from the most polluting esectors, namely:
- the production of fossil fuels
- petroleum consumption in transportation
This project will increase both.
"Yes, but the band leaders have agreed to the pipeline, so where's the problem?"
1) According to the Indigenous leadership that prevails here (again, Delgamuukw Decision-1997) the territory in question is not under the jurisdiction of the band council but under that of the hereditary chiefs.
Band chiefs are:
- a system imposed by colonization: derived from the Indian Act
- deal with the day-to-day affairs fo the community and the territory of the /reserves/.
Hereditary chiefs are:
- the traditional system that survived colonization despite all efforts to eliminate it.
- take care of the whole ancestral territory and have as their role to protect it for the next 7 generations.
(It can happen that the same person plays both roles, which can be confusing, but this is not the case here.)
2) Is it a real choice?
Do you want a pipeline?
- Yes, we're going to give you money
- No, we're not going to give you anything and we're going to do it anyway
Endemic poverty on (underfunded) reserves can be a major incentive to say yes.
The government's tactic of addressing the wrong authority is revealing. They are looking to impose a project (still!) and divide (a strategy that has proven its worth).
But the indomitable Wet'suwet'en do not intend to let this happen and continue to defend their rights and their territory in a peaceful way, armed with their drums and sacred chants.
"We defend our territory for everyone," say the hereditary leaders of the Wet'suwet'en.
Their customs and cultures have long been forbidden and we can only salute their resilience and strength to still be here today, despite the efforts of white people to relegate them to the realm of folklore.
On February 10th, 2020, a ceremony took place at Unist'ot'en Camp to honour the memory of missing [and murdered Indigenous] women and girls [and two-spirit].
For it must be remembered that more than 1,200 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada sine 1980, against a background of general indifference. [emsenn: this is the official number and it is widely disbelieved for being far far far too low.]
The situation can be described as a real genocide. But I digress.
The RCMP decides that the ceremony is a good time to intervene and impose an injuction allowing the industry (CGL) to take over the territory.
Weapons of War (police with rifles, sniper overwatch)
Many repressive methods are used
7 people are arrested in the middle of their singing.
The media is muzzled (fortunately, the scene was documented.)
The land defenders are treated as criminals, and this is the image desired by their opponents.
Sidenote on the RCMP: It is relevant tonote that the RCMP, formerly the NWMP, was basically created to control Indigenous populations and quell rebellion.
It was also in charge of picking up (kidnapping would be a more appropriate term) the children to take them to residential schools where they were prevented from speaking their languages, practicing their customs, not to mention the widespread abuse they experienced.
"They stole the children from the land, now they steal the land from the children"
It is therefore a very tense relationship between Indigenous Peopls and the RCMP and its presence on their territory is itself an act of aggression.
To add insult to injury, people from the industry invaded the territory as soon as the RCMP made arrests.
This contemptuous intervention was the spark that ignited the fire.
(Sorry it's long: it's important to me.)
Images from the PDF y'all might like
I probably should've specified the "we" in all these seems to be settler-Canadians, and the "they" Indigenous peoples, which is the inverse of most of my posts.
@emsenn is that just the CO2 from extraction and transportation? or does it include burning the LNG as well?
@cinebox I'm not sure! i'm just transcribing the pdf, let's see if there's sources at the end
@cinebox I got to the end and still don't have an answer for you sorry!
@emsenn Thanks to Severn Cullis-Suzuki I know way more about this topic that I can take in without getting angry. "It´s your land, until we need to build a pipeline (that is a high risk, environment destroying project)."
@FLauenroth "Rule of law" is a weapon the media uses to encourage racism against indigenous people: it doesn't really apply to us.
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