On the Beautiful Widzin Kwa (Morice River): The Grassroots Wet'suwet'en people are fighting to stop the onslaught of 7 multi-billion dollar proposed pipeline projects from entering their unceded and occupied lands.
These proposed pipelines are part of an 'energy corridor' aiming to connect Tar Sands and shale gas extraction projects with ports and LNG processing terminals in Kitimat and Prince Rupert on BC's west coast. Three companies: Kinder Morgan, Pembina Pipelines, and Endbridge Inc., each propose dual pipelines to transport not only dirty bitumen, but also condensate as a diluent, along with a cocktail of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and poisons from the extraction and slurry process. Several shale gas pipelines are also proposed to run from Summit Lake and the Horn River Basin, fracking fields in northeastern BC's Montney Shale Formation.
The first threat to Wet'suwet'en territory was the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP), part of the Kitimat LNG project , which intends to transport shale gas through a 42' diameter bidirectional pipeline. Chevron and Woodside hold 50% each of the Kitimat LNG project. PTP is the intended trailblazer of the prospective 'energy corridor,' and plans dual pipelines to stretch 463km from BC's fracking fields, all the way to the Douglas Channel on the west coast. It would initially carry 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Coastal GasLink is another shale gas pipeline LNG terminal project proposal. The project is owned by a consortium of Companies called LNG Canada led by Shell Canada Limited, including Mitsubishi Corporation, KoreaGas (KOGAS), and Petrochina. TransCanada corporation, the same company trying to force through the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline, is contracted by LNG Canada to build Coastal GasLink. Early January 2016, the consortium got its permit to build a liquefied natural gas export facility in Kitimat together with a 40-years export licence.
To stop the PNP, the first pipeline slated to be built, in its path, a log cabin, which was started in 2010, was finally completed in July of 2012, directly on the GPS centerline of the proposed pipeline corridors, at Talbits Kwah at Gosnell Creek and Wedzin Kwah (Morice River which is a tributary to the Skeena and Bulkley River). The cabin is now a full time home and a resistance community where a grassroots Wet'suwet'en family lives sustainably off their ancestral lands while honouring their responsibility to protect the earth. In Dec. 2012, the clan evicted surveyors working on the Apache Canada's Pacific Trails Pipeline from their territory, declaring that they were trespassing, they also seized equipment and set up a roadblock against all pipeline activity. The clan has also built a traditional pit-house and Healing Lodge, along the pipeline route and they hold annual action camps to train activists in direct action. As a result of the unsanctioned PTP work on Unist'ot'en yintah, an active checkpoint at the entrance to the territory was set up. All visitors upon arrival wishing to enter the territory, must introduce themselves and answer questions before being granted permission to enter. This is part of a Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol, a re-actualization of natural law and the implementation of a new emancipatory standard of autonomy within first nations territories. In BC, First Nations have never signed any treaties and thus defend their right to exercise sovereignty over their lands.
The Unis'tot'en (C'ihlts'ehkhyu / Big Frog Clan) are the original Wet'suwet'en distinct to the lands of the Wet'suwet'en. The Unis'tot'en recent history includes taking action to protect their lands from Lions Gate Metals. They have also defended the land against clear cutting by the logging company Canfor, who built the world's largest sawmill at the forest service road entrance that leads into Wet'suwet'en territory.
Impressed by the promise of job opportunities, 16 Native Nations whose territory is situated along the proposed PTP signed the First Nations Limited Partnership Agreement (FNLP) with Chevron. One of the outcomes of such treaty is the creation in 2010 of the PTP ASEP Training Society, responsible for the employment of Native communities’ members in the oil and gas mega-infrastructures. Such developments bring to light the current divide among Native American communities from British Columbia State regarding the fossil fuels industries. The divide has actually spread nation-wide.
"The camp has grown to a whole community in resistance. Volunteers helped build a permaculture garden, a solar powered mini-grid, and a healing lodge/cultural centre, under the guidance of hereditary indigenous leadership to help create a working vision for future generations" .
The Wet'suwewt'en elected chief and council approved the CGL pipeline, but the hereditary chiefs opposed. The 13 hereditary chiefs argue that the elected chief only has jurisdiction over the band’s reserves, and that hereditary chiefs retain jurisdiction over the traditional territory where the checkpoint and camps are located .
After successfully slowing, stopping or rerouting all proposed pipelines projects, in January 2019, CGL, a subsidiary of TransCanada, filed for an injunction to be able to access and start clearing land for the construction of the CGL pipeline. The BC Supreme court granted the injunction. RCMP were brought in to remove Gitemden check point. Many land defenders were arrested. CGL is now working in Unist'ot'en territory.
The community at the Unist'ot'en camp remain and continue to resist and organize and rally support. This is not over.
1997: Delgamuukw Supreme Court Case:
Landmark decision recognizing that aboriginal title is not extinguished in the areas claimed by Wet’suwet’en and Gixtsan. This case sets criteria for future rulings on aboriginal title. Plaintiffs in the case are all hereditary chiefs .
2007: Interest and Use study on proposed PTP project: Wet’suwet’en express will to prevent all pipelines .
2008: Decision by all Wet’suwet’en Clans to unanimously opt out of the BC Treaty Process, asserting rights and title on ancient jurisdiction belonging to them
April 1, 2009: Checkpoint established at Unist'ot'en camp to block access to territory at the bridge .
2010: Construction begins on log cabin, directly on the exact location of the proposed pipeline corridors .
December 2011: Unist’ot’en supports their grassroots neighbors, the Gitxsan nation, who blocked entry to their treaty office to contest a deal with Enbridge .
2012: Speaking tours educate wider audiences on Unist’ot’en resistance to fracking and tarsands expansion .
August 2012: 3rd Annual Unist’ot’en Action Camp: 200+ people attend a 5 day series of educational workshops, from all over Turtle Island and beyond .
2013: Construction of traditional Pithouse on the territory .
2014: Construction of bunkhouse for visitors .
2015: Construction begins on the Healing Centre .
September 3, 2015: "Hereditary chiefs from all five clans, and Office of the Wet’suwet’en staff, visit camp at the Wedzin Kwa. They assert their support for Unist’ot’en and affirm their position being NO to ALL pipelines" .
November 2018: Coastal GasLink applied for an injunction .
January 4, 2019: Injunction expanded to include Gitemden Checkpoint .
January 7, 2019: RCMP arrive to remove check point. 14 people were arrested and taken to Houston, B.C. . RCMP blocked road from being accessed by media and shut off internet access at the Gitemden checkpoint
January 8, 2019: Support rallies mobilized in 30 cities .