I want to first acknowledge that I write this piece knowing I am on unceded territory. This realization has sunk deep into me over the last ten years of my life. It has also inspired me to work toward a different way of being on land here, where I am.
I am writing to express my support of the courageous stand the people of the Unist’ot’en territory, smack in the middle of a proposed pipeline route, are not backing down from. Freda Huson and her chiefs have maintained a community of people on the territory they have been charged with protecting for over 6 years.
I have been welcomed on to the territory many times over the last 4 years and with every visit my commitment to decolonizing practice deepens. To decolonize for me means to recognize my place here, where I am, and to actively take responsibility for what I can take responsibility for as we all work toward a just society. I have come to see my place as one who occupies land that is not meant to be owned, but to be cared for.
This is what I see the Unist’ot’en are modeling for us all. They are living on the land in a way that will ensure it will still be there in 100 years, still be there offering itself to those who access it in respectful ways. They have recognized what allowing pipelines through the territory will do to the land and the water. It will do what all pipelines eventually do, despite what industry and government tell us. The pipelines, which will be flowing with fracked gas and bitumen from the tar sands will eventually destroy the land and the water. We still have the ability to make sure this does not happen. We have the ability to ensure the salmon are not destroyed, the moose, bear and beaver are able to roam the land, and the water continues to be consumed from the river running through the territory.
Over the years I have been learning what sovereignty is. Theoretically it is supreme power over something – in this case – the land that the Unist’ot’en have been responsible for since time immemorial. Theoretically the Unist’ot’en have the right to say what happens on the territory that is still theirs because it has never been ceded or conquered through war. When a sovereign people make a decision to protect what they have the responsibility to protect, that decision should be respected. Theoretically, the RCMP and the government of Canada have no jurisdiction on Unist’ot’en territory. It is my hope the sovereign nation of Canada will respect the sovereign wishes of the Unist’ot’en and not the illegitimate claims of multinational corporations who have entered into agreements ignoring the very clearly stated Unist’ot’en right to say no.
I have also come to realize that the Unist’ot’en also recognize what the land offers them as a community. That is why they have reoccupied the territory. That is why they are building a healing lodge. The hope is that it will facilitate bringing new life and healing to their community. It is part of a larger vision and realization that the way the colonizers have been living is not in harmony with the land. It is an assertion that an economy built on the continued destruction of land and water offers no future for any of us. And, in this stand, now, the Unist’ot’en are reasserting their commitment to live in harmony with the land so that not just their community, but, all of us will be able to continue to be inspired to work on our own decolonizing.
If we do not do this there is little hope for the future. So, my deepest respect and gratitude and commitment to continue the fight go out to the Unist’ot’en as they resist!
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