Stopping Pipelines, Healing a Nation

The Unist’ot’en Camp Enters its 7th Year

By Sakura & Darius

Sixty five kilometres up a logging road near Houston, BC, just beyond a river from which you can drink directly, lies an unceded territory actively defended by its original people. To enter, you need to go through a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent protocol designed to keep people out who do not benefit the land and its people. Once inside, you find a flourishing off-grid community with gardens and large buildings for housing, food storage, cooking and healing, built by the land defenders and their allies.

Above: At Unist’ot’en taken by Micheal Toledano 

The place is known as the Unist’ot’en camp, and since 2010 the camp has been building permanent infrastructure on the routes of several proposed pipelines to protect the land and assert the Unist’ot’en’s traditional Indigenous legal systems.

“Building infrastructure is our way of occupying our unceded territory,” explains Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en Camp. “Occupation is the tactic the colonizer used on our people since contact. My dad always said our best ammunition against continued theft of our land is to occupy your territory.”

The camp has garnered international support and inspired other nations to use similar tactics to protect their territory against pipelines and a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant.

In August of 2014, chiefs from the Luutkudziiwus house of the Gitxsan Nation permanently closed Madii Lii territory to pipeline development by erecting a gate and building a cabin to control access to the territory. One year later, members of the Gitwilgyots tribe started occupying Lax U’u’la (Lelu Island) to legally prevent and slow surveying, work, and construction of the Pacific Northwest LNG/liquified fracked methane project proposed near Port Edward, BC.

“We have seen the favorable results of occupation,” says Freda in reference to the tactic spreading across the region and emboldening a resurgence in Indigenous land defence and reclamation.  However, the Unist’ot’en camp is about a lot more than simply stopping unwanted pipeline development.

“Our long-term goal for our Territory is to bring holistic healing to our nation,” Huson explains. “The residential schools and the removal of children from our nations and communities has been the government’s tactic for removing the Indian out of the child. Our healing centre will bring spiritual, cultural, and mental healing to our people.”

Below: The Unist’ot’en checkpoint at night. This is the place where the Free Prior and Informed Consent protocol is done before people can enter this protected territory

Though conflict still looms on the horizon with oil and gas corporations who refuse to respect Indigenous law, the work of healing has already begun. Indigenous people and their allies have been coming to the camp for seven years now, to heal the land and each other, and to build the necessary infrastructure for the large-scale plans of healing the nation. Currently, there is an all-season bunk house, a permaculture garden, a large kitchen and dining hall, and construction of a three-story healing lodge is ongoing.  An online fundraising site has been launched to help fund this initiative on the fundrazr (www.fundrazr.com) platform entitled “Stop the pipelines! Heal the land! Heal the people!”

Although a combination of popular opposition, Indigenous refusal, and shifting market forces has led to many of the original seven pipeline proposals being defeated and withdrawn, some energy corporations are vowing to push their pipelines through Unist’ot’en Territory without consent in the near future.

Keep up-to-date with the Unist’ot’en Camp by following them on social media (Twitter and Facebook). Supporters are encouraged to raise funds for the camp through fundraising events, and most importantly educate those around them about the truth about fracking and destructive pipeline projects. Now more than ever we must support Indigenous nations reclaiming their territory, asserting their law and jurisdiction, and charting their own path towards healing and development.


Sakura & Darius
Sakura and Darius are environmental and social justice organizers based in Southern Ontario. They have been active in grassroots political movements for over a decade, and are long-time supporters of the Unist’ot’en Camp

Solidarity with Standing Rock

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a 1886 km conduit slated to carry crude oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois when it’s completed by the end of this year. Since its approval in late July, the project has sparked outrage. On September 10th, protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota reached a boil- ing point, with violent attacks on protesters by security dogs and numerous instances of macing.

Protests began this summer as the Standing Rock Sioux, the indigenous Nation whose source of drinking water will be crossed multiple times by the pipeline, led a lawsuit to block construction of the pipeline. ousands of people, representing members of Nations from across Turtle Island and their supporters, have converged in Standing Rock to continue to resist the ongoing colonization of land and water.

To donate to the Red Warrior Camp legal, fund visit:

www.generosity.com/fundraising/red-warrior-camp-legal-fund-nodapl

L’eau Est La Vie, Water is Life:

black and white illustration of women rowing in a bayou with various sea creatures and animals surrounded them. It reads "water is life. stop the bayou bridge pipeline"

Fighting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana

by Anne White Hat

The Atchafalaya Basin in southern Louisiana is the largest river swamp in North America and one of the most productive wetlands in the world. Its 885,000 acres provide habitat for a vast array of wildlife, including half of the continent’s migratory waterfowl. 

Since time immemorial, people have centered their life-ways on the Basin: from the indigenous Houma and Atakapa-Ishak nations, to the Cajuns and crawfishermen who came later.  It is a special place where land becomes water, where life flourishes as it pours into the sea. But the Atchafalaya Basin is under attack. Corporations are ramping up the development of oil and gas infrastructure in its waterways. Large access canals and pipelines dredged through the swamp have fundamentally altered its geology, disrupting the north-south water flow and creating sedimentary build-up that fills natural bayous, preventing the Basin from serving its natural role as a floodplain. In addition to dams (constructed by the oil industry), some parts of the Basin have two kilometers of man-made canals for every one kilometer of natural bayou.

All of this meddling has impaired water quality, destroyed wildlife habitats, and wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of crawfishing communities. The last few years have seen serious floods hit communities throughout Louisiana, and the flooding will only get worse as the Atchafalaya Basin continues to wither. Our state is losing an acre of coastal wetlands every hour.

The last thing we need is another pipeline through the Basin. Yet that’s exactly what Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, is proposing.

They’re calling it the “Bayou Bridge Pipeline,” but we call it a threat to everything we hold scared — and it’s already under construction. Its proposed 162-mile length will cross an astounding 700 bodies of water, including Bayou LaFourche, a critical reservoir that supplies the United Houma Nation and 300,000 Louisiana residents with clean, safe drinking water. This not only violates the sovereignty of the Houma and other nations, but it also threatens sacred mounds and traditional “marker trees” (ancient Cypresses) along its path.

Furthermore, the pipeline would destroy our economy by adding to the already enormous problems that pipelines have created for the crawfishing industry, which supports thousands of good jobs. By ETP’s own admission, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline would create only 12 permanent jobs. It’s clear that this project only serves the needs of industry, at the cost of more of our precious wetlands, with unforeseeable impacts on flooding throughout the entire state of Louisiana. This pipeline is incompatible with humanity’s goal to limit emissions and stop climate change. It is incompatible with the belief in our hearts that water is sacred, and water is life.

To fight this pipeline, we have formed the L’eau Est La Vie Camp, a frontline resistance camp. L’eau Est La Vie means “water is life” in French, and the camp is backed by a coalition of indigenous nations, water protectors, local landowners, crawfishermen, faith-based congregations, and environmental groups. Holding space in the traditional territory of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation, which we have entered with their blessing, our camp serves as a home-base to monitor the proposed route, build relationships with nearby landowners, and reclaim land under the vision of a just transition and sustainable future.

We are targeting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and the company behind it, ETP, with both legal interventions and strategic non-violent direct actions. With lessons learned from allied pipeline resistance efforts, we are appealing the permits awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, alleging that these groups have failed to consider irreparable harms to both the Atchafalaya Basin and the coastal community around St. James Parish in southern Louisiana. We are also fighting in court to receive public records regarding communications between the companies behind this project and our local sheriffs, as well as with the governor of Louisiana.

Our coalition is working to develop and implement Louisiana Water Protector Training for every person that joins Camp, as well as folks in communities across southern Louisiana. Water protectors are trained to look for specific Energy Transfer Partners construction permit violations and report them to the appropriate agency. We also provide a comprehensive overview of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and environmental history as well as laws regarding waterways. To date, nearly 100 water protectors have been trained and monitoring is being coordinated amongst our coalition via Signal app and Facebook reporting, with daily-on-the-ground updates provided by L’eau Est La Vie water protectors. This strategy builds internal power and also sends a strong message to ETP: Louisiana isn’t as friendly to oil and gas as they have been told.

In a recent exploratory excursion, we noted and took samples of Louisiana’s old-growth “legacy” Cypress trees in the Atchafalaya Basin. These trees are estimated to be more than 400 years old and are often referred to as the “Noah’s Arc” of the wetlands because they are home to wildlife during storms and high waters. While the number of these old growth trees that lie within the Bayou Bridge Pipeline’s route is unknown, its 75-foot wide right-of-way will permanently destroy at least 940 acres of these wetlands.

In addition, water protectors also discovered a work-site where construction crews had cut the fencing on the property easement and left it open. A horse was found entangled in the barbed-wire. They were able to free the mare, and our online petition garnered nearly 75,000 signatures in just 3 days calling for ETP to be charged with animal cruelty.

ETP is also the same company behind the notorious Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and also hired Tiger Swan, the private security firm that committed horrendous human rights abuses at Standing Rock. Tiger Swan applied for their license to operate in Louisiana but were denied due to our coalition organizing efforts. They have appealed. Meanwhile, the Louisiana’s Governor reportedly told the Baton Rouge Advocate that “another pipeline traversing the Atchafalaya Basin” wasn’t going to keep him up at night.

The collusion and apathy of our leaders is unacceptable. As we inch closer every day to a real climate catastrophe, it is up to water protectors and the people we stand with to shut down these projects by any and all non-violent means.

We are striving to create the systems of change necessary for a drastic shift towards clean energy, challenging systems of oppression within the Deep South at the heart of oil and gas country. By launching L’eau Est La Vie Camp as a home-base on the route of the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, we have opened avenues of direct action, strategic organizing, and political resistance. We envision this land becoming a space devoted to multi-generational skill shares, radical art creation, activist retreat space, and everything else needed in a just transition toward a clean energy economy throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Oil and gas companies often build their infrastructure in Louisiana because they expect acquiescence from the people. Their industries have been long intertwined with our livelihoods; we have, sadly, come to see their infrastructure in our bayous and swamps as normal. But Louisiana is rising to challenge that situation. Folks are standing up to say “no more.” Inspired by the example of our relatives at Standing Rock, as well as those resisting Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain project in Canada, we are building community around defence of the sacred. We will not let them take our Basin and the life that flourishes there.


 

Anne White Hat
Anne White Hat is a member of the Aśke Gluwipi Tiośpaye of the Sicangu Lakota Nation from Rosebud, South Dakota. She is a mother and herbalist living in New Orleans, Louisiana and serves on the Advisory Council for L’eau Est La Vie Camp, a project of Louisiana Rise.