As pipeline builders bulldoze a Wet’suwet’en cultural site, Unist’ot’en Camp calls out for funding to continue their legal fightback
On August 27th, the office of Wet’suwet’en called Coastal Gas Link’s bulldozing through the Kweece War Trail “an act of cultural genocide.” The Unist’ot’en Camp released a renewed call for donations to continue their legal defence work in order to expel the pipeline builders from their territory.
In December 2018 the Supreme Court of British Columbia awarded Coastal Gas Link a temporary injunction to begin construction preparations for a Liquified Natural Gas pipeline across unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. The injunction did not rule on the legal challenge against the pipeline, launched by the Unis’tot’en House Group of the Wet’suwet’en nation, but the Supreme Court Justice found that further holding up construction preparation for that pipeline would cause harm to Coastal Gaslink’s investment capital. The injunction empowered the RCMP to attack and remove the barricades put up by two clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation, clearing the access road to the construction area for Coastal Gaslink construction workers.
The company’s bulldozing through the Kweece War Trail is the most recent example of the danger posed by the pipeline right of way to Wet’suwet’en culture, history, and sovereignty. An Unis’tot’en Camp spokesperson explained in a video posted to their social media, “it feels like a time of war, an attack or invasion. They don’t have any regard for any of the other life here, including ours.”
Coastal Gaslink did not do an archaeological assessment before pushing through their right of way. Mike Ridsdale of the Tsayu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation says that he told Coastal Gaslink, before they even received their injunction to prepare for the pipeline, that cutting anywhere near the Kweece War Trail would harm the Wet’suwet’en people. “It’s like putting a roadway on top of a grave site,” he explained.
The Kweece War Trail is a Wet’suwet’en cultural site which contains national knowledge, as well as archaeological stores. Unis’tot’en Camp members have found stone tools that are thousands of years old, culturally modified trees that are fifty to a hundred years old, and have identified village and burial sites along the trail.
The immediate danger of bulldozing through the trail is the direct destruction of these sites, as well as the danger that after bulldozing trees, the brush will grow up and overtake the trail. Coastal Gaslink has installed boardwalks over specific sections of trail but an Unis’tot’en Camp spokesperson explained, the long-term danger is that “if a pipeline explodes then [these boardwalks] aren’t going to protect shit.”
An Unis’tot’en Camp representative explained that the Coastal Gaslink construction crews have been acting disrespectful and arrogant ever since gaining access to Unis’tot’en territory. He said he has seen workers drive along the road laughing and waving “like they weren’t escorted in by RCMP and didn’t point assault rifles in our face to gain access to this territory.” Coastal Gaslink’s treatment of Indigenous people at Unis’tot’en Camp is a mirror of the company’s treatment of the territory that the Camp was created to defend.
The Court granted Coastal Gaslink their interim injunction in order to spare the corporation harm to its investments but, as the Unis’tot’en Camp explained in a statement issued in June, the injunction has caused irreparable harm to the Wet’suwet’en nation’s non-capitalist economy, Wet’suwet’en hereditary governance structures, and the health of Wet’suwet’en people.
Although the Wet’suwet’en nation holds sovereign power over what happens on their territory, Canada is founded on the refusal of that sovereignty. The Unis’tot’en Camp has practiced Wet’suwet’en sovereignty with a healing centre and economies of trapping and harvesting, and defended that sovereignty with barricades and is continuing that national defence in the courts.
Donate to Unis’tot’en Camp’s legal defence fund: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/unistoten-camp-legal-fund