Wet’suwet’en First Nation group warns Enbridge: "You're going to be walking out"
A chain has gone up across a bridge over the Morice River near Smithers, B.C.
In a telephone interview, Freda Huson told the Straight that the barrier was erected in response to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s June 17 conditional approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
In a video posted on YouTube shortly after that decision was announced, Huson, a spokesperson for the Unist'ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, describes how her group plans to respond if Enbridge attempts to begin pipeline construction through the area.
“They can go ahead and try and put their project through here,” Husan states in the video. “They will be considered trespassers. And we'll enforce Wet'suet'en law against any trespassers. You bring any equipment on here, it's going to belong to us. You're going to be walking out.”
Speaking to the Straight, Huson explained that the route proposed for Northern Gateway traverses territory that belongs to the Wet’suwet’en. She described that land as never sold, ceded, surrendered, signed away in a treaty, or lost in war.
“They don’t have any jurisdiction over our territory,” Huson repeated. “So they have a duty to consult, they did consult, and our people said ‘No’.”
The bridge Huson mentioned serves as the lone road into a small settlement called the Unist'ot’en camp that her people began constructing in 2010. Its location was strategically selected using a global positioning system to obstruct the path planned for the Pacific Trail natural gas pipeline. The settlement has since been expanded in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would follow a similar route across the province.
Originally a lone cabin, there’s now a pit house, permaculture garden, and a bunk house with beds for 20 people. “We’re planning on developing a community there and living there permanently,” Huson said.
She noted that traffic over the bridge has been controlled for some time with a vehicle blocking the passage of people deemed unwelcome in the territory.
“Most people, they have to go through a series of protocol questions,” Huson said. “Who are you? Where are you from? How long do you plan to stay? Do you work for an industry or government that is destroying our lands? And how will your visit benefit my people?”
Northern Gateway is planned to carry 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen and 193,000 barrels of condensate per day between the Alberta tar sands (also known as oil sands) and Kitimat, British Columbia.
The Wet'suwet'en is one of nearly 30 B.C. First Nations and tribal councils that signed their names to a June 17 announcement declaring they would mount a court challenge against the Northern Gateway project.
“We unequivocally reject the Harper Government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project and First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” that statement reads. “This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories. Our rights and laws compel us to act.”
According to an Enbridge website discussing Northern Gateway's “benefits” for First Nations, the company has so-far held more than 2,000 meetings and 43 open houses with First Nations groups. It’s also stated there that aboriginal communities located along the pipeline’s proposed route “will have access to existing stewardship and habitat protection initiatives”.
Husan is scheduled to speak in Vancouver in support of the Unist'ot'en camp on June 27 at the Astorino's Ballroom. “We’ll be talking about our camp, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Husan said. “A lot of people have been providing support and this is our way of giving them a report on what their funds are covering.”
Jun 19, 2014 at 2:22pm
Good! BC First Nations are showing us all that they are the Leaders in this battle. I, for one, will follow their lead.
Jun 19, 2014 at 3:43pm
Pathetic. Way to empower and justify the state violence monopoly.
Jun 19, 2014 at 4:17pm
This is bullshit. I've worked with Enbridge elsewhere and run into First Nations issues that cause a lot of headache and cost. They stopped jobs, held up equipment, and made life difficult for a lot of people just trying to do their jobs. In the end it seems they are just looking for another payout. And this whole concept that First Nations people can just take equipment is completely outrageous. My company has also run into this issue in the past and it is a genuine hindrance on business and completely archaic.
Jun 19, 2014 at 4:28pm
I really don't think this specific group of First Nations is looking for a payout. At the same time, I also don't think anybody is suggesting that actions like this one are not a genuine hindrance on business. That's part of the point of such actions.
These groups' argument is that minimizing climate change and environmental destruction is more important than allowing business as usual to continue in ways that are no longer sustainable.
Sorry for the inconvenience. We are only trying to change the world.
Jun 19, 2014 at 4:44pm
While this tribe is resisting economic growth, they should consider where the money they get from the federal government comes from.
Jun 19, 2014 at 4:51pm
I'll assume Freda Huson is just another Idle No Moron out to get attention by protesting whatever evil happens to be in vogue at the moment. In actuallity the Wet'suwet'en First Nation is in support of both the LNG and the Northern Gateway pipeline. The more rational elements and leadership is fully aware these project will bring prosperity, jobs and a better standard of living to their people. While they are being cautious and expect honest consultation from the Government and the pipeline companies, they feel it would be a net benefit to them, much to the chagin of people like Ms. Huson.
Jun 19, 2014 at 6:00pm
I'm really thankful for what you guys are doing. You actually have the power to stop this project from going through. We owe you.
Jun 19, 2014 at 6:01pm
Whoever doesn't realize the potential disasters of this project lacks any kind of spirituality and connection to nature. Without healthy environment economy doesn't mean shit
Jun 19, 2014 at 7:38pm
When are people going to get it through their heads that this was and is Native land - all of it.
What did the white man do when he got here - did he ask if he could come and stay? Did he get along peaceably with the Native population? NO. He gave them blankets infected with smallpox. He starved them out; killed all the buffalo; put these wise people on reserves. Here we are now in the 21st century and what is happening - the same damn thing. What gives Harper the right to put a pipeline across Native territory? So it gives jobs - money is not going to help if there's a rupture and the land gets polluted. I'm not even going to start on the travesty that is the tar sands - big enough to see from space and poisoning all the people downstream. Then there's the tracking - pretty nice to be able to set your tap water on fire!
This land is already very fragile and that's assuming we aren't getting fried by Fukushima radiation. They've already found irradiated fish in the Fraser and now you want to add the possibility of an oil spill if you can call it oil which it isn't.
We need to start healing this land and start getting along with each other not start a war. I can see where people who work in the oil industry are coming from and get it that you're putting a roof over your head and feeding your kids - so are the Natives. This is their backyard and they get a lot of their food and all their water from it. How would you like a pipeline going across your back yard?
Mr. Harper and his party have a lot to answer for already as well as our Provincial Liberal party who are the most hard hearted, greedy bunch I've ever witnessed.
If the Natives need a hand I'd be proud to stand beside you. The government should be spending their energy righting the wrongs of the past and listening to these original inhabitants of this beautiful and fragile country. I'm sick and tired of people saying that Natives are looking for handouts and even if that were true - don't they deserve something for all they and stolen from them?
Thanks for standing up to these bullies as another person commented - we owe you.
Jun 19, 2014 at 7:52pm
This is BC's time to make its point against those that have no regard for how we choose to live. We will stand firm, we will not back up, we will not harm, and if they shoot us Harper loses. We won't fail and Ottawa and Alberta can go entertain themselves elsewhere.