Indigenous Voices from Frontline Struggles against Dispossession: Kanahus Manuel and Dini Ze Toghestiy

The following are excerpts from INM Stream, a webinar held on December 17, 2015. Watch the full speeches here

Kanahus Manuel photo Warrior PressKanahus Manuel (Secwepemc)

So-called British Columbia is mostly unceded and unsurrendered lands; there has never been a treaty or purchase of our lands. Yet our peoples have been forced onto the front lines battling with the aggressive resource extraction industry. In my Secwepemc territory we have been fighting Imperial Metals’ Mt Polley mine along with the tourism industry at Sun Peaks ski resort, water extractions, and pipelines.

It hurts my heart when I see things like the Mt. Polley disaster in our territory that dumped millions of litres of toxic tailings into Hazeltine Creek and then Quesnel Lake. There are 10 metres of tailings at the bottom of Quesnel Lake. What is more disturbing is that on Nov 30th, 2015 the provincial government gave a discharge permit to Imperial Metals, even though they admit that the water being discharged from the mine doesn’t meet drinking water or aquatic life guidelines. Their rationale is because the Hazeltine Creek is now a non-fish bearing creek.

The colonial state continues to issue permits to the mining companies and pipeline companies without the consent of Indigenous people. Canadian mining companies are going all over the world, destroying the land and social structure of the people and killing Indigenous people who are standing up and protecting their territories. The Canadian government uses the RCMP to deal with the unsettled Indian land question, as it did at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake), where colonial forces faced off with Wolverine and other Indigenous people with 450 police and military, armored personnel carriers, land mines, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

There are so many issues, whether it’s clear-cut logging, fish farms, fracking, tar sands, mining, all the pipelines being pushed through, water theft (bottling up our water and taking it from our mountains), or mass tourism. All of these industries are really impacting Indigenous people; our salmon is being impacted, our water is being impacted on our territories. We want to establish our own Indigenous ways, our sovereignty, our independence. This is what we want to see as Indigenous people.

I haven’t been to Lelu Island yet, but I have been to Unist’ot’en, Madii ‘Lii, Sutikalh, and other places within so-called BC where Indigenous people are defending their territories and sacrificing their lives for their freedom and their land. We’ve seen the Idle No More movement flash flood across the country and we’re asking for everybody to come out. We need 100 or 1,000 more Unist’ot’en camps, Lelu Island camps and Madii’ Lii camps; we need them sparking the fires of resistance throughout Indigenous territories.

Dini Ze Toghestiy copy

Dini Ze Toghestiy (Wet’suwet’en)

I’m a hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu clan, from the Sun House. Currently in our territory we are focusing on the north shore of Francois Lake, a place called Allen Creek that is the site of many proposed pipelines. But they don’t have our consent. Our clan has met quite a few times and we held a feast where we announced to the other four Wet’suwet’en clans that we are against all pipelines coming through our territories.

The Wet’suwet’en, like many other Indigenous nations in BC, have never signed a treaty with a government, with any government. No treaties were signed, and we have no relationship with the province or the federal government. But they forced us onto reservations and off of our lands, so they can go ahead and open mines, develop logging activities and engage in agriculture. Now they are putting in pipelines. So they have come in and decimated our territories to the point where the territories can’t really sustain us.

As Indigenous peoples, our territories were abandoned when we were forced onto our reservations. The animals that kept us company out there, the land, the medicines, the plants – all knew who we were and we had an intimate relationship with them. That relationship was severed when the Indian Act came in and we were forced onto reservations. So we need to get off the reservations and out of urban centers and go find ourselves and our land again because our ancestors are waiting for us to come home.

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