ReMatriating the Land with Matriarch Camp

A detailed illustration of a women raising her hand in protest and talking into a mic. the cursive text boarders the right side of the picture and reads " Matriating the land since time immemorial"

By Bitty & Salmon Defenders 

“Tsas’ Dream”Illustration By Bitty Q

Matriarch Camp (MC) mainly travels Kwa’kwaka’wakw, Nuu’chah’nulth and Coast Salish territories. Led by Ma’amtagila grandmother Tsastilqualus Ambers Umbas, MC has members recognized as Warrior Women, Salmon Defenders and supportive allies. MC also has kin camps Swanson and Midsummer Island that are led by Namgis Hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred and his niece Karissa Glendale.

MC’s initial occupation began on October 13, 2017 and was acknowledged by the event: “State of Emergency, Matriarch Camp Anniversary/Call to Action” (October 15, 2018). MC was able to camp outside Premier John Horgan’s office and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for about 6 months while surviving the harsh raincoast weather, multiple arrests, and minimal support. 

Matriarch Camp is known for fierce direct actions such as one member chain locking her neck to an entrance to the DFO, boarding “The Orca Thief” boat (fills farms with fish) in dry dock and one member duct-taping themselves to the mast and a X-Mass Extinction Die-In mall tour.

MC is culturally committed to protecting our wild salmon relatives from Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) open net fish farms that infect our coastal territories with PRV-virus and lice. These diseases and parasites have already contributed to a dangerous, unprecedented decline in wild Pacific salmon, with many vital populations and salmon runs predicted to be obsolete within a decade. This, in turn, has led to a rapid and potentially irreversible decline in the survival rates of our southern resident orca whale relatives, of which only around 6 dozen now remain. There is a gauntlet of over 30 concentrated fish farms polluting the migration route of wild salmon and whales in the Broughton Archipelago, Kwa’kwaka’wakw territory.

Tsastilqualus’ dream has been to bring Matriarch Camp to her traditional and unceded Etsekin (I’tsikan) homelands of the Ma’amtagila people where the resistance will continue. This October 2019, a gukdzi bedo (Little Big House) was built in partnership with the University of Victoria and fundraising is underway to move it to Halidi, a 20-minute boat ride to Etsekin, where there are currently three fish farms and threat of a fourth. 

Ma’amtagila Matriarch and grandmother Tsastilqualus is continuing her Indigenous right to resist fish farms in Indigenous waters and support is always welcomed and needed.

Matriarch Camp is fully grassroots and runs on their own out of pocket funds, fundraising and community support.

Donations can be e-transferred to thematriarchcamp@gmail.com

For ease of transaction, use password: Wildsalmon 

Follow on FB: The Matriarch Camp.

Also on FB: Fish Farms Out Now, Swanson Occupation


Black and White portrait of Bitty close mouth smiling with arms raised in a black shirt. They have on glasses and dark lipstick

Bitty Q – my name is bitty. I’m a two-spirit, art creating, youth centering, forest wandering, sea misting, garden growing, care loving crip. I have maternal Coast Salish roots of Lkwungen, Quw’utsun’ and Lummi descent and paternal roots of Irish, French and Euro ancestry. To see more art that I make and learn more about me, check out seawolfrise.org

Water For Life, Not for Profit

The Local Fight Against Nestle & The Privatization of Water 

By Amelia Meister

In Aberfoyle, just 5km outside of Guelph Nestle Waters Canada is quietly drawing millions of litres of water per day, without a permit. As surprising as this may sound, this is well within current government law. Current law allows Nestle to draw water on an expired permit, as long as they have applied for a new permit. The most surprising, however, is that there is no time limit for how long they can draw water on the expired permit before a new permit is issued.

In a time of intense drought, where the Grand River Conservation Authority has issued a Level 2 drought restriction and the City of Guelph is on Level 2 water restrictions (the highest they can be), everyone else is tightening their belt and doing their part for water conservation but Nestle goes on drawing hundreds of millions of litres of water a year.

Not only that but Nestle pays three dollars and seventy one cents per million litres they draw. Compare that with Guelph’s water rate, where we would be paying about three thousand dollars for the same amount of water. Nestle pays next to nothing for the water they draw and then sells it back for over one dollar per litre.

This is a blatant stealing of water, happening right under our noses. Nestle plays their broken record of “we are within our legal rights” and the government says that there is nothing they can do but wait for the application process.

However, this fight is about more than permits and fees. This is a fight about the privatization and commodification of water. This is a fight about who has the right to water.

Nestle argues that without bottled water people would go thirsty and not have access to water. The government argues that Nestle has the right to draw water because they apply for the permit and it doesn’t care what Nestle does with the water afterwards. However, this country has the ability to create and maintain drinking and sanitation facilities and we should not need bottled water. While it is true that there are 132 boil water advisories in First Nations across Canada, these are less of a testament to the need for bottled water and more of a statement of this country’s blatant disregard for First Nations lives.

Water should not be sold. We need water to live. Without it we would die within 100 hours or less. It is not up for sale to line the pockets of multinational corporations that promote violence all across the world.

By giving water to Nestle the province is stealing from future generations, endangering their water security and the water security of the entire region. It is failing to protect a vital resource that should be conserved for the public, not for the private interests of Nestle.

There is, fortunately, intense public backlash against Nestle and the government’s current response to water drawing in the province. In media all across the country, this issue is gaining traction. Locally, Wellington Water Watchers has been campaigning tirelessly to educate about the importance of tap water as well as opposing Nestle in governmental processes.

As the resistance to Nestle increases there will be more direct actions bringing the issue of the privatization and commodification of water to the forefront of everyday consciousness. More and more citizens and organizations are working to fight for our waters.

Everyone, right now, can do their part by boycotting Nestle, especially their water products, sharing all articles about Nestle on social media (this encourages more media coverage as media outlets see their articles being shared) and talking to your friends and neighbours about water protection.

To connect with Wellington Water Watchers go to www.wellingtonwaterwatchers.ca


Amelia Meister
Amelia Meister is a poet, healer and radical single mother. She believes in working hard, loving fiercely and grieving deeply. Her writing appears in a monthly column in the Guelph Mercury and her words have been shared on many stages across Canada.

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.