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Mega dams and pipelines are linked

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Thanks to Rita Wong for permission to publish an early draft of the following piece. The final revised article will be published in an anthology on climate change planned for publication in the fall of 2018.

Rita Wong is a teacher, poet and water and land activist. (@rrwong)

 

This spring, I’ve spent many hours volunteering and keeping watch at Kwekwecnewtxw, the Coast Salish watch house set up to protect land and water from the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (https://protecttheinlet.ca/structure/).  A place of prayer and ceremony, the watch house was and is also used to watch for enemies.

Accusations of “national interest” fly through the corporate media, and recently the “we love this coast” banner at nearby Camp Cloud was defaced.  Despite all the moneyed noise and roughly 200 arrests** of water protectors at the nearby entrance to the Kinder Morgan tank farm, here at this sacred space, I feel the calm and commitment that comes with a community voicing deep love for home, for each other, and even for the relatives who don’t understand or don’t care why humanity needs to stop fossil fuel expansion.

True Leaders of No pipeline in Burrard InletWater protectors come in waves day after day, singing songs like:

People gonna rise like the water, gonna shut this pipeline down
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter, saying stop Kinder Morgan Now 

Moon after moon, people keep the camps going, with sacred fires, kitchens, workshops, open houses, steady activity both mundane and magical. It’s humbling and uplifting to feel part of a much larger movement asserting connection and responsibility to land and place, remembering the limits of the earth we call home and mother.

I hold immense respect for the Tsleil Waututh community members and allies who are determined to protect mother earth, so courageous and stalwart in their love for this land. They teach us so much through their sacrifice and their honesty, generosity of spirit, and wisdom.  I seek to be a good guest on these Coast Salish homelands that I have had the good fortune to live in for the past two and a half decades.

For the past two years, I along with many others have spent much time trying to protect the living Peace River from being choked and killed by the Site C dam, a third dam on this river in Treaty 8 territory (northeast BC) that has already been devastated to provide BC with electricity. Previous dams were effectively attempted genocide on the Indigenous peoples of the river, and Hydro’s recent apology for the violence and trauma rings hollow as it prepares to inflict more violence and turn the sacred, fertile Peace Valley into a sacrifice zone for a capitalist economy that knows no bounds, no humility, no respect.

Photo 1 Peace River Valley- Photo by Robin

Peace River Valley, Northeast BC – HYDRO POWER TRUMPS ABORIGINAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE Photo by Robin Bodnaruk

The past few months in particular have been devastating because of the provincial NDP’s betrayal of its base, the everyday people, but we have continued nonetheless voicing how crucial it is to protect what is left of the free flowing Peace River, a key migration corridor for remaining wildlife and abundant in sacred sites for Treaty 8’s Indigenous people. We hold weekly actions every Friday outside BC Attorney General David Eby’s office to urge him to ensure the province acts honourably on Treaty 8.

The Peace teaches us that those who live down south owe a huge debt to the north. It also offers the possibility of a future economy based in food security (with rich farmland) and respect for land. As places in the US are decommissioning dams, it is not too late to stop the Site C dam debt bomb.

Dams like Site C, Muskrat Falls and Keeyask are examples of ongoing colonization under capitalism, a new wave of hydro colonization, that will run us to the point of mass extinction, if people allow them to be pushed through despite bankrupting and harming us, big governments, and land. They are basically examples of how colonial governments are set up to benefit large corporations at the expense of the land’s health and the well-being of those connected to the land.

The dams greenwash the short term, disconnected greed that misses the bigger picture of what truly matters in life – for example, how the natural cycles like the waxing and waning of the moon teach us a rhythm of coexistence rather than exploitation to the point of destruction.

Many current struggles are connected through valuing the health of the water, respect for land and the land’s Indigenous peoples. There are so many contradictions under capitalism, but the truth remains clear as clean drinkable water: as a species, we cannot afford either the pipeline expansion nor the mega dam if we want to become better relatives with the earth and each other.

What links mega dams and pipelines are the growing inequities that arise with mega projects at a time when community economic development models provide more participatory and just possibilities for economies that fulfill the practical needs (not fleeing desires) of our loved ones.

At the end of the day, the night teaches us that we need to rest and respect our bodies as well as the earth. When the time is right, the moon gives us just enough light to navigate the paths to the watch house and the river. Each river, each place, is special and specific. But under capitalism, everything is reduced to profit and contracts that enforce submission to the banality of evil. I’m struck by Aaron Mills/ Waabishki Ma’iingan’s essay, “What is a Treaty? On Contract and Mutual Aid,” where he states “life under contract is a zombie horror” (215)… “beneath contract’s fiction…is carefully contained violence, always threatening to irrupt the artificial peace…”

Contracts attempt to replace the intimacy of trust built through relationships, through the processes of helping one another. They turn the natural cycles of place and time into endless business 24-7, restless to the point of collapse.

So the capitalist machinery needs to wane, like the moon. It needs to follow and respect existing natural cycles instead of wrecking them.
When we have a fever, we need to rest and sleep, drink lots of liquids and slow down. That is where we are today, from a planetary perspective. Whether we can achieve such a reprieve will depend on the people on the ground, working for their ancestors and the ones yet to come, in each of the places I’ve mentioned, and many more than I can name here.

**To donate to support the legal fund, go to https://stopkmlegalfund.org/ – I am also serving on the Board of this fund with the aim of ensuring that those who are poor can equitably access legal support.

Courage my friends….People of Faith on the Mountain, April 29, 2018

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Supported by many volunteers providing food, coffee, warmth and encouragement, more than 100 people of faith from various churches and organizations came to the mountain to show support for the Keepers of truth, water watchers and those who are camped there every day.  The resistance is growing!people of faith arrested on April 29Stop Kinder Morgan.jpg

Another extraordinary day: Indigenous blessings, singing, creative brilliance and connecting with the meaning of time

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April 18, 2018 — As we arrived for our court date in the ongoing battle of the people vs Kinder Morgan, Justin Trudeau and the rest we were greeted by the cadence-like movement of of Will George’s characteristic feathered head dress. He was accompanied by a circle of  drummers and participants in dancing the words and prayers of his ancestors.

Today, it was in honour of those of us attending court.  Their voices and rhythm filled the concrete tunnel linking Vancouver’s  Smithe Street Law Courts entrance despite the sound and fumes of the passing cars. The vibration even through the concrete was powerful.

What a difference then walking through the door and confronting the black and white costumed legal bees buzzing throughout the first floor of the Supreme Courthouse and all the way up to Courtroom 55 where the drawn-out proceedings of the Canadian Legal system were shown to be as confusing as ever.

During the approximate three hours in the courtroom the court was silenced twice, at separate intervals, by two Indigenous people who took space in the court to berate the Canadian legal system for its unfairness in daring to seek punishments and to criminalize people who are fighting to save the land and the water and who are acknowledging the principle and the law of  free, prior and informed consent required in the use of Indigenous held lands. There were no media reports either of the morning greeting nor the episodes of drama in the courtroom.

Those two courtroom episodes, (I apologize for not being able to credit them personally) stopped the court in its tracks.  There was silence as each of those people spoke of long term injustice and growing strength in the face of it.  One spoke in her Heiltsuk language. The other speaker presented with the power that comes from centuries of resistance.

And they gave rise to searing applause and shouts of support from the hundreds in the room who are in the process of submitting to the harsh reality of a legal system that does not accept dissent in any meaningful way! The judge listened without cautioning or commenting.

But none of the above was deemed to be news by mainstream BC or Canadian media.

But what was the news media highlight of the day?.  CBC and other news outlets shouted from the roof tops that Angus Reid that “trustworthy” pollster owned by “no” corporate interests, they say, has stated that based on their most recent on-line poll it’s clear that British Columbians want the pipeline to go ahead.  That was the a.m. news and nothing changed about the top story all day. While callers to the noon-hour BC Almanac mostly berated the polling results and questioned the notion that so much credence is given to polls, the methodology and outcomes and issues reported from the poll were credited as fair by host Angela Sterritt.

 

But in, fact no other activities, no counter polls, hardly a mention of the complex sovereign ownership of the land and sea complete with wildlife and resources that are threatened were counted or reviewed by Angus Reid.  No discussion of free, prior and informed consent related to Indigenous People’s rights.

So today a group of primarily settler resistors, in the courtroom,  backed by some powerful Indigenous voices both inside and outside were, once again, ignored by Canadian mainstream media.

For resisting settlers,  it is not so much a brand new experience as a reminder of how long Indigenous Communities in this country some of us call Canada have been resisting.  It is a lesson in time.

Time flies, they say, when you are having fun.  The time, for Indigenous sovereignty, respect and learning exactly what those will mean for all who live in this territory, has come! It is not fun to be in a constant battle over truth and only truth can lead to healing in this territory.

Its up to every one of us, settlers in particular,  to both change and ignore those polls and join the resistance in forceful but peaceful resistance.

 

 

 

 

One 0f 200 arrested for taking a stand against tar-filled pipelines coming to the coast

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On March 22, I became the 140th person to be arrested standing at the gate to the Kinder Morgan disaster that is happening on Burnaby Mountain.  Although i’ve been involved in many and various activities during my more than 50 years as a feminist, labour and cultural activist, I’ve never been arrested before.

Tomorrow about 170 of us have been summoned to court to find out how the system will deal with our refusal to accept Justin Trudeau’s order to let the Texas-based Kinder Morgan proceed with completing a pipeline to transport dirty,  heavy and chemical-laden bitumen through forests and neighbourhoods to the Fraser River and beyond.

I’m proud to have taken a stand.  I will continue to do so.  I’m grateful for the leadership of the Indigenous Coast Protectors (@coastprotectors), for all the Indigenous Matriarchs and for the thousands who have stood up for First Nations rights and the rights of all people to live and breathe without being poisoned.

Thanks to Arthur Manuel for encouraging so many in the settler communities on this journey.

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Many thanks to Ta’ah Amy George, Tsleil=Waututh Matriarch, UBCIC Grand Chief , Stuart Phillips with Naomi Klein  (@NaomiKlein) and Chief Bob Chamberln (@ChiefBobbyc). This is national and international leadership!

 

 

 

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