CONTENT WARNING: POLICE VIOLENCE
In the early hours of Friday November 19, Gitxsan land defenders set up a railway blockade in the town of New Hazelton (situated about 130 kilometres north of Houston) in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en under siege by heavily armed RCMP forces.
On Saturday November 20, Gitxsan land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson told journalist Brandi Morin: “We are here in solidarity with our Wet’suwet’en allies with whom we have a mutual defence pact going back millennia.”
Kolin further noted: “As a result of their incursions onto Wet’suwet’en territory, their invasion of a sovereign nation using the militarized RCMP, we have set up a railroad blockade here in New Hazelton.”
Significantly, he also highlighted: “As a result of that railroad blockade, Coastal GasLink personnel and equipment brought out RCMP units … to New Hazelton where they displayed assault rifles, tactical units, a swarm of RCMP officers, helicopters.”
That same day, Sunday November 21, RCMP officers violently tackled and arrested Kolin’s brother Denzel near the railroad tracks.
As the police piled on him, Denzel shouted: “I can’t breathe!”
You can also hear Kolin telling RCMP officers on the bridge over the rail tracks: “What you are doing to the Wet’suwet’en is unacceptable. Those are our family. That is the land we survived your genocide to protect. We are still here, and you are still coming at us with guns and that’s absolutely disgusting.”
When I asked Kolin what he thought of the green-garbed, heavily armed RCMP Emergency Response Team in New Hazelton, he replied: “It’s terrorism.”
He added: “It’s meant to frighten us, but we are still here.”
PBI-Canada affirms that defending rights is not a crime. We share the call that the criminalization of Indigenous land defenders must stop.
Gitxsan land defender Kolin Sutherland-Wilson to the RCMP: “We are still here, and you are still coming at us with guns!” Published by Brent Patterson, Peace Brigades International-Canada, November 23, 2021
If you’ve been with us for some time, you’ve witnessed our struggle at Standing Rock to stop the Dakota Access pipeline and the Anishinaabe resistance to the Line 3 pipeline. You’ve been a friend to us, and you’ve come to know many Indigenous water and land protectors fighting for our sacred lands and waterways. What you may not know is that, for years, our Wet’suwet’en relatives have undertaken a similar struggle in their own territory, to our north in what we now call Canada. They need our attention and support, too.
On Friday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided an Indigenous-led blockade with dogs and assault rifles. They arrested two journalists and at least 13 others at the frontlines, the latest in a series of arrests dating back to 2019. The Wet’suwet’en are doing all they can to stop construction of TransCanada’s 670km Coastal GasLink pipeline, because a third of this pipeline would cross their homelands on its way to a facility in coastal Kitimat.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have refused to give consent for the project, and, crucially, they have never signed a formal treaty with the provincial government or relinquished their land. Much like our #NoDAPL fight, this is both an environmental and a sovereignty issue; the Wet’suwet’en are also attempting to protect sensitive headwaters.
In September, they put out a call for support, and this newsletter is an amplification of that call. I ask that, for now, you please visit their page to get more up to speed. As we go forward, the Lakota People’s Law Project will keep our eyes on things, and — just as so many did for us at Standing Rock — we’ll stand with our First Nations relatives in the best way we can.
Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle against Big Extraction!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859