As Canadian police forces try to enforce a court injunction backing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, a First Nations group has vowed to not back down from protecting what they see as unceded land and their supporters have announced dozens of solidarity actions scheduled for Tuesday in cities across North America.
Ahead of the demonstrations in Canada and the United States, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday arrived at a checkpoint erected by the Indigenous land defenders designed to prevent TransCanada from constructing its Coastal GasLink pipeline through what the protesters have described as “some of the most beautiful and pristine territory in the world.”
“We are now preparing for a protracted struggle,” the protesters said in a statement before facing the RCMP. “The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the land defenders holding the front lines have no intention of allowing Wet’suwet’en sovereignty to be violated.”
While TransCanada maintains that it has reached all required agreements with the First Nation’s elected band council to construct the pipeline in the remote area of British Columbia, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters assert that council authority only covers the reserve and doesn’t apply to the traditional lands that the Indigenous protesters are trying to protect.
As Chief Madeek, hereditary leader of the Wet’suwet’en nation’s Gidimt’en clan, told CBC, “They’re not the title holders or the caretakers of the land. The hereditary chiefs are.”
Summing up the Indigenous group’s opposition to the pipeline company’s sustained effort to move forward with construction, Madeek declared at a news conference on Sunday, “We want them right off Wet’suwet’en territory.”
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