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Indigenous people in two separate locations in occupied British Columbia have been forced to mobilize in defence of the land over the past week, blocking machinery and corporate personnel from accessing their territories. The Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en clans of the Wet'swet'en nation have long opposed the Pacific Trails Pipeline, and have taken many steps to defend their land to stop the project. Further south, on November 12th members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation confronted employees of Taseko Mines Lmited, who had trespassed into their traditional territories.
On November 7th, members of the Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en received an anonymous tip that heavy equipment and staff from the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) project, were moving into their territory. PTP is a proposed liquified natural gas pipeline that would cut across unsurrendered indigenous lands in BC. After receiving the information, a small group from both clans mobilized to secure the area and escort the equipment and personnel out. Members of the group created a sign reading "“Road Closed 2 P.T.P. Drillers” and guarded the road to ensure no corporate personnel entered. Early in the morning of November 8th, the land defenders had their first encounter with PTP workers.
"I approached the first vehicle which was a white Budget Rental jeep and asked the lone occupant if he was there for the Pacific Trails Pipeline company, " said Dini Ze’ Toghestiy hereditary chief of the Likhts'amisyu clan. "He answered 'yes' and I then sternly told him, 'You realize that I can’t let you through. You will have to turn around.' The individual then replied, 'Understood, we will turn around and go.'"
After the vehicles turned around the driver of a logging truck that waited until the road cleared, rolled down his window and yelled “Kick their ass!!! KICK THEIR ASS!!” in support of the of the Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en defence.
After two days spent patrolling the area thorough heavy snow, and after several conversations with PTP employees, the group successfully ensured that all drilling equipment and personnel had left the area.
"We will fight what is happening in the Alberta tar sands and what is happening to their aquifers and we will also fight plans to destroy the aquifers on our side of the Rocky Mountains,"Toghestiy told the Vancouver Media Co-op via email. "You cannot make compromises with water – especially when everything depends on it.”
In another struggle which has also intensified over the past week, Taseko Mines Limited (TML) has continued to seek government approval for the "Prosperity" copper mine on Tsilhqot’in land, closer to Williams Lake. After the first TML proposal was turned down last year, another version of the same proposal was resubmitted and is now under review by a panel from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
According to an account of the incident sent to the Vancouver Media Co-op, Chief Marilyn Baptiste told TML employees that "…they were trespassing on traditional territory, that they were not authorized to be on the Tsilhqot'in traditional territory, and that B.C. does not have jurisdiction there."
In response, TML filed a petition in court to prevent further interference with their exploration.
“We are seeking every reasonable path available to us, despite our limited resources, to ensure that Tsilhqot’in rights are protected in the face of a company and a government that do not understand how unique and important this area is to our communities,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “We view the B.C. exploration permits as illegal as they have failed to accommodate our already proven Aboriginal rights to this area – rights which will be adversely impacted by the significant amount of roads, drilling and test pits proposed by the company.”
Both groups had representatives at the Second Indigenous Gathering against Mining and Pipelines in Vancouver last week, and have vowed to continue to work in their own territories as well as in support of each other, in the face of destructive new projects
The Tsilhqot’in as well as the The Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en are seeking support in their struggle against industry's encroachment in their lands. To support the Tsilhqot’in contact JP Laplante at 250-392-3918 or email email@example.com. To join the struggle against the Pacific Trails Pipeline visit http://unistotencamp.wordpress.com/
The Tsilhqot’in need support in court on November 19th. Click here for details
A day of action against the Pacific Trails Pipeline is scheduled for December 9th. Click here for details.