Supporter and USB member Bob Ages sent along this update after returning from the camp just a few days ago.
The Unist’ot’en territory is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and healing places on Mother Earth yet now finds itself in the cross-hairs of both oil and fracked gas corporations and the RCMP. I just returned to my home in Ladner after several weeks on the territory as storm clouds gathered – both literally and metaphorically and have been asked to share a few observations.
Things have changed a lot since my visits last year. Then, as people chopped wood for the stoves, hauled water from the river or worked on building projects we would keep our ears open for a toot from a vehicle arriving at the far side of the bridge. Whoever was free would casually stroll down to see who it was and call one of the hosts if it was a new visitor who needed to go through Protocol. At the far end of the bridge there were signs asking people to stop, honk and wait and at the middle was a simple chain that might prevent a car from crossing without permission but a person could simply step over.
Now there is a strong checkpoint that cannot be accessed on foot or vehicle without being unlocked. There are supporters on watch around the clock. It was a strange feeling to be there on the early morning shift as the first glimmers of daylight lightened the eastern sky just over the tips of the pine trees; to sit by the fire sipping “cowboy” coffee and listening to the water of Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) tumble by; to watch an early rising eagle follow the line of the river upstream to find a fish breakfast; all the time wondering if the next moment we would hear the rumble of motors as the RCMP’s heavily armed ERT (Emergency Response Team) came around the corner a few hundred yards to the east of the bridge. No doubt with JTF2 snipers lurking in the woods opposite us with high powered military rifles aimed at our heads as they did at Elsipogtog just two summers ago – targeting women and elders in their scopes.
There is no doubt that is exactly what the RCMP had planned. Approximately 200 RCMP in black uniforms were spotted less than two hours away in Smithers the second week I was at the Camp – prompting the heightened state of alert. These were not regular highway patrol cops from the local detachments. You can also be sure the top level incident commander flown in from Surrey to take command was not there on a tourist excursion.
Fortunately the Camp was able to get word out about the situation to the network of supporters across the northern interior, in the Lower Mainland and around the world. The response was immediate and overwhelming as people worked around the clock to alert the media and their social networks to the threat. It was this exposure and potential world-wide embarrassment, along with the firm and determined stance of the Unist’ot’en and the other Wet’suwet’en clans that forced them to back off. The danger is not gone and the Camp remains on high alert but it seems the immediate crisis has passed.
It is hard to believe that this peaceful place of healing and re-claiming traditional indigenous ways could be the target of an armed attack by RCMP and army special forces at any moment – but it is equally impossible to believe that the pipeline companies and Harper government will just shrug their shoulders and walk away from all these multi-billion dollar projects. That is why all of us who support Indigenous people upholding their responsibilities to the land need to step up our efforts wherever we are and whatever our abilities. Whether that is going to the Unist’ot’en Camp ourselves or building political and financial support wherever we may be. Together, First Nations and settler allies, we will stop these pipelines so there will be a livable planet for the next seven generations to live and flourish on.