Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations defend the coast, and their sovereignty
Khelsilem and Ta’ah pledge to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline
Transcripts of a press conference held by Khelsilem (Squamish Nation Council) and Ta’ah (Amy George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation)
On April 16th 2018 the George family held a news conference continuing their opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. This news conference was held in the context of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh led movement pressure that forced Kinder Morgan’s announcement that they would stop non-essential work on developing their pipeline expansion. As the Squamish Nation proceeds with legal action against the Federal government to stop the pipeline expansion, the statements from Khelsilem and Ta’ah are remarkable for their centring of their national sovereignty as the central political problem of their fight against the pipeline, and for their determination to fight and stop the pipeline regardless of the findings of the Canada’s colonial court system. The Volcano is reproducing these texts here as historical documents that challenge the political domination of Canada over the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, and, as Ta’ah argues, the economic domination of capitalist accumulation over non-capitalist Indigenous economies.
The full video of this news conference is worth watching for the committed inflection in the voices of these speakers, which the text transcript cannot quite capture. See the video here.
Khelsilem (Spokesperson for the Squamish Nation Council)
I’m here to represent the Squamish Nation in our interests as it pertains to our rights and the rights of our people. This pipeline and these tankers that are to traverse through our people’s territories have not met our consent as a nation. The work that is being proposed by the Trudeau government as well as the proponent, Kinder Morgan, contravenes our right as a people. We have a right to practice our culture, our way of life, and to continue our right to self determination in our territories. This is a right that we have never surrendered and never given up.
To that end it is our responsibility as elected leaders to ensure that our territory exists for future generations, that this land was given to us by our ancestors and it is our responsibility as elected leaders to protect that land for our children and their children and their children. To that end the Squamish Nation has taken both the provincial government and the federal government to court over the deeply flawed consultation process.
We have rights as a nation which have not been met or honoured by this government. The Trudeau government ran on promises of changing the relationship with First Nations and Trudeau has completely failed at that regard. He made numerous promises to our nation and to the people of British Columbia and he has failed at upholding those promises. To that end the Squamish Nation will continue to defend our interest to protect the inlet, to protect our territory, and to protect the economy that our people rely on within this territory. And we stand together with other First Nations, municipalities, and many, many people of this territory who now live here to protect our livelihoods, our jobs, and our communities. That is the interest of the Squamish Nation, and we… await the decision from the federal and provincial court cases, but we remain committed to our stance.
This project has not been in our interests and the process the Trudeau government has used, carrying on from the Harper government, has been a complete failure to the Squamish Nation. We will continue to fight this, to defend the interests of our people. This is the will of the Squamish people that has been given to us as sacred obligation, as elected leaders by our people. We will continue to do so based off of that mandate. Thank you.
Ta’ah (Amy George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation)
I have a great big reason to carry on protesting for my inlet—I’m a mother and a grandmother and a great grandmother.
When the tide goes out, the table is set. I remember sitting with my father on the beach, who had the same bucket for years. He’d like to walk out, grab the crabs, get saltwater from the inlet, and put the clams around the fire. Then he’d say “it’s ready” and we’d run in and eat and eat and eat. So I’m thinking, since I’ve come to this age, my dad once said that when they said they were going to relocate the Indians and make the world’s biggest seaport, my dad said, “that’s the only time I’ll take up my gun, I’m not gonna move, I’ll die here before I move.” So I got very frightened cause I was younger then, when he said that, and I got very frightened and now I know what he means. I would give up my life for my grandchildren to have a better life. They don’t know how to crab, how to clam, how to swim in the water.
My great great grandfather stood in front of the railway to come through the reserve. He went and blocked it and they said, “if you don’t get out of here, if you don’t move we’re going to arrest you and put you in jail.” And he just stood his ground. They were going to take him away and put him in the penitentiary at New Westminster and our medicine men said, our Chief takes care of us but we take care of our Chief. So he was the one who went to jail. At Second Narrows, where there’s that crossing for railways, that’s why that happened. Tsleil-Waututh people were wiped out to 13 people at some point. If my grandfather didn’t stand in front of that railway it would have went right through our reserve.
They never gave up and it’s not in my genes it’s not in my character it’s not in my heart or spirit to give up. I don’t care what they’re saying out there, they can threaten us with the army—anything that they do, I’ve been through it before, my people have been through it before. And I’m not about to give up, I’m just going to keep on, cause I’ve got very important people coming up behind me. I’ve got great grandchildren and when I look at them I see a poem that my dad wrote, he said, at the end, did I do enough? When I look at the end of my life when my life comes to an end I’m going to look back and I’ll see what kind of condition my grandkids are in and I will say, I did enough. I did enough, I put my life on the line and I fought. I will fight in this to the end. My life’s almost over anyway and I’ve been in residential school half my life, so what more could they do to me? What more could be done to me? Well call the Canadian army, okay, I’ll stand out front. This is my experience as Tsleil-Waututh people, I will stand up for my grandchildren, for my water, for my land, and for my hair.
One spill, and all the people in Vancouver would have to move, we’d have to move or die there because gas floats in the air and lands on your table, lands on your bed, lands in your hair, on your skin. It’s in your house and you’re breathing it so houses have been, blocks have been torn done and I don’t want this to happen here, I don’t want you to suffer like that either, I don’t want your children to be breathing in poison. They’re too precious. So I have very big reasons, I don’t know how many grandkids I got, I think about eight great grands. They’re good enough reason never never to stop. Sometimes I prepare something to say and then most times when I get to the microphone it has to come from the heart I’m speaking for my grandchildren, I’m speaking for my children. Aho. All my relations.