On Thursday, March 17, The Uniter Speakers Series is hosting Water and Indigenous Women’s Wisdom, a partnership with the 6th annual Grass Routes Sustainability Festival. We invite you to join us for this free event at 6 p.m. at Convocation Hall in the University of Winnipeg.
We spoke with Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (who came up with the idea for the event), Kevin Settee (who was involved with organizing the whole festival), as well as Freda Huson and Chickadee Richard (the guest speakers) about how this all came together, and about the importance of water, of ceremony and of indigenous women’s wisdom. Here’s what they have to say.
Freda Huson is the spokesperson for Unist’ ot’en Camp, which was founded in 2009.
“We live in a blockade right now. So, I technically don’t call it a camp, but everyone knows it as Unist’ot’en camp,” Huson told The Independent in an interview published on YouTube. She said there’s a family living in a cabin year round. Others come and go.
The Unist’ot’en Camp is a cabin and resistance camp located in the Wet’suwet’en Territories, in Talbits Kwah at the mouth of Gosnell Creek and the shores of Wedzin Kwah. It stands there to protect their lands from seven proposed pipelines.
“If you have a relationship with the land you automatically protect the land as the land provides you with food, medicines and waters. You will ensure your critical infrastructure is protected,” Huson says.
The Unist’ot’en (C’ihlts’ehkhyu / Big Frog Clan) is occupying the land as an exercise of its historical free prior and informed consent protocol, and it stands there as an expression of their jurisdiction and inherent right to give or deny consent to use of the land.
However, they do not consider the camp to be a protest or demonstration. Rather, they are occupying their traditional territory in traditional ways as a peaceful expression of their connection to the land.
“Staying on my territory has brought me health spiritually, mentally and physically. Physical work daily keeps me fit. Chopping wood and packing it in to stay warm. Snowshoeing during winter to check traps. Drinking water that is in natural state with all minerals intact,” Huson says.
Huson told The Independent that they let people over the single bridge into the territory if they can answer a series of questions to the Unist’ot’en people’s satisfaction, including if they work for industry or government that are destroying lands and how their visit will benefit the people.
“So far, the only company that has been permitted across the bridge is CanMore. They’ve been sitting down with my chiefs and revising their operational plans and stuff and changing the plans to suit our people’s needs,” Huson told The Independent. She said they can’t do anything on land where they trap, pick berries or medicines.
The entire Wet´suwet´en territory is currently unceded and governed by traditional indigenous legal systems. The people have, so far, successfully blocked Lions Gate Metals plans at Tacetsohlhen Bin Yintah, and Tar Sands Gigaproject and LNG from the Horn River Basin Fracturing Projects in the Peace River Region. They are also stopping Enbridge and Pacific Trails Pipeline’s projects which would cross the river at the Unist’ot’en’s pithouse and permaculture garden.
Huson told The Independent that people need to start taking greater action to stop the environmental damage that is being done by industry.
“If we don’t start doing something about it, all of us are going to be extinguished just like the dinosaur. So people need to wake up and start doing something. You can’t just stay in your little apartments and go to your nine to five jobs and pretend you don’t know what’s going on around you,” Huson said to The Independent.
Published in Volume 70, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 10, 2016)