#LANDBACK is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.
Above all, LANDBACK is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.
One of the main areas of work of my Indigenous friends is related to the concept of LANDBACK. When I recently asked how I could best support them, they said “LANDBACK”.
My Spirit agrees, because agitating to stop the profligate use of fossil fuels has been my life's work. Extraction projects involve the theft of land, even when defined as legal by means of eminent domain. But the concept of LANDBACK is a new path of exploration for me, and I will need guidance, from the Spirit and all things human and non human.
As I began to learn about LANDBACK, I realized I was familair with the concept, if not the words.. I grew up in rural, farming communities. I was puzzled by fences, and the idea of land ownership.
Many white people have been learning about the concept of land acknowledgement. Native people ask, now that you (white people) have acknowledged whose land you are on, what next?
But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.
The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism. Although these goals are herculean, the landback movement has seen recent successes, including the removal of dams along the Klamath River in Oregon following a long campaign by the Yurok Tribe and other activists, and the return of 1,200 acres in Big Sur, California, to the formerly landless Esselen Tribe.Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020
My first real introduction to #LANDBACK was when I heard Denzel Sutherland-Wilson talk about LANDBACK in January, 2020, in the video below. IAnother video below is about the terrifying time when Royal Canadian Mounted Police had him
in the sights of a sniper rifle as he was protecting his land.
The idea of Indigenous peoples leading justice work is often heard but had not often been practiced, in my observations. But recently there has been a noticeable rise in Indigenous led activism.
Will we follow that leadership, and work for LANDBACK? Will we have a choice as we need the wisdom of Indigenous peoples to guide us as our environment collapses?
What I am learning is #LANDBACK is about much more than returning control of public lands to Indigenous peoples. Following is an outline of the concepts of #LANDBACK.
#LANDBACK is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.
It is a relationship with Mother Earth that is symbiotic and just, where we have reclaimed stewardship.
It is bringing our People with us as we move towards liberation and embodied sovereignty through an organizing, political and narrative framework.
It is a long legacy of warriors and leaders who sacrificed freedom and life.
It is a catalyst for current generation organizers and centers the voices of those who represent our future.
It is recognizing that our struggle is interconnected with the struggles of all oppressed Peoples.
It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core.
It is acknowledging that only when Mother Earth is well, can we, her children, be well.
It is our belonging to the land – because – we are the land.
We are LANDBACK!
Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.
I am a white Quaker. LANDBACK is not something I have previously discussed with other Quakers. I am concerned because many Friends have trouble dealing with some of the history of white Quakers, and other white people in this country.
Although we are glad our white ancesstors participated in the Underground Railroad, for example, quite a few white Quakers were involved with the slave trade, and "ownership" of enslaved people.
A large number of white Quaker families traveled westward from the Eastern seaboard, and settled on, unceded Native lands.
A number of white Quakers were involved with the forced assmilation of Native children. As I'm learning, attempting to erase native language, ceremonies and kinship are also things that need to be dealt with as among the things stolen from original peoples. They are part of the LANDBACK concept.
Many white Friends are uncomfortable with their white privileges today. We need to learn the truth about these histories, and find ways for reconciliation and healing. Healing for Indigenouse peoples, and ourselves.
I’m having a great deal of difficulty getting my white friends to see the fundamental injustices of the culture of white supremacy and capitalism. Beyond the moral imperative, this is even more urgent to understand now as change is being forced
upon us. As environmental chaos rapidly worsens. As our political and economic systems fail. We will be forced to adapt. As dangeous as environmental collapse will be, that will present opportunities to build better communities.
Implementing the concept of Mutual Aid is a way we can do that..
As I've begun to raise these issues with white Friends, I have encountered the ignorance of many regarding some of our history. And resistance to change. Fear in response to the ideas of LANDBACK.
But not universally. Perhaps despite the contributions of white religious peoples to Indigenous genocide, attentiion to the Spirit will find we should engage with LANDBACK and Mutual Aid. For example, I was very grateful to receive the following response from my friend and fellow Quaker, Marshall Massey, which I am sharing with his permission.
As far as archæology can tell, no one actually lived on any of the land within fifty miles of where I, personally, live, until the 1870s, when whites came to use it for transshipment. It was too dry and barren and empty to support people who
just lived *here*. There’s a part of the Bighorn River Canyon about 90 miles southeast of me, where very small numbers of people like the Anasazi lived in Anasazi-style cliff dwellings, at about the time of the Anasazi, perhaps 800 or
1200 years ago. They fished the streams, hunted the nearby hills, and probably cultivated small patches of ground. But that was long before horses arrived, and they had no real reason to come the long distance (it would have been a week
or more on foot) from where they dwelt to where I live, except perhaps in curiosity about what the land looked like.
By the time the natives of my area had horses, my area, along with most of the broad stretch of land from the Bighorn to the Rocky Mountain Front — 400 miles and more miles across — was an area that the nearest tribes (Crow and Blackfeet)
hunted buffalo and other prey on horseback in, but did not settle in, and did not regard as a possession. They rode across it, from their own edge to the other tribe’s edge, to raid the other tribe’s dwellings on the far side, to steal
horses and count coup and work revenge. They spoke of this to the European-Americans: “This all belongs to the Great Spirit,” they said, “and the Great Spirit meant us to have the use of it, but not to own it.” If you want an exact quotation,
here is Crowfoot, a chief among the Blackfeet, speaking some time around 1885: “We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore we cannot sell this land. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it
does not belong to us.”
We have a similar testimony in the Bible — would you believe it? Funny coincidence. “The earth is YHWH’s,” it says, “and the fullness thereof.” (YHWH is a Hebrew word which some modern scholars believe began as a representation of the great
wind that fills all the sky, or the great breath that animates all beings: the great spirit.) You may know this passage: it appears in Deuteronomy 10:14 and Psalm 24:1, and is repeated in I Corinthians 10:26. Not that the Bible matters
much to liberal activists any more, though; most of them would much, much rather get the same teaching from some other source, anywhere else but their own tradition. Nonetheless, this teaching in the biblical tradition is why the believers
in the early Church held all things in common and committed all their resources to look after one another. How can anyone really own what God has put in place for all, especially in cases where someone else has an unmet need? Deuteronomy
and Psalms represent wisdom teachings that date back three thousand years, and were I a betting man, I would bet the wisdom of non-possession goes back to the dawn of thought about such things — millions of years back, to when our ancestors
and the ancestors of chimpanzees were one people.
I have begun to think that many modern Americans — including, unfortunately, many modern, Westernized native Americans, and at least equally unfortunately, also many modern Quakers — will never, never let themselves comprehend the idea of non-ownership. Their souls are too far shriveled. Surely the land must have been someone’s property, whenever there was anyone even remotely able to make a claim. But this was the testimony of the natives of that time, and of Friends as well. And I believe it is the truth. You might as well claim that somebody owns the sun
Canadian Friends Service Committee released a statement in support of the ongoing protests by the Wet’suwet’en Nation people and hereditary chiefs in opposition to proposed pipelines on unceded land. The statement includes that “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms rights and related obligations to ensure that conflicts like this will not be addressed violently or militarily but rather resolved with negotiated solutions.” It is a reminder that climate change is a peace and justice issue.
CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en people
CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en People CFSC stands with all Wet’suwet’en people in their efforts to ensure their human rights are protected. We feel any use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the opposite of reconciliation. Respectful dialogue is what is needed. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the need to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty. The Wet’suwet’en People have rights in their territories that must be respected. Governments should engage in good faith with the Wet’suwet’en to resolve their concerns. Sustainable development protects lands, territories, and waters. Sustainable development also includes the protection of human rights. CFSC is taking this situation very seriously and is in ongoing dialogue with our Indigenous partners in the region, supporting them as requested..
Bear Creek Friends (Quaker) meetinghouse is in the Iowa countryside. Many members have been involved in agriculture and care about protecting Mother Earth. A number of Friends have various relationships with Indigenous peoples. Some Friends have worked to protect water and to stop the construction of fossil fuel pipelines in the United States, such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
We are concerned about the tensions involving the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, who are working to protect their water and lands in British Columbia. Most recently they are working to prevent the construction of several pipelines through their territory. Such construction would do severe damage to the land, water, and living beings. Bear Creek Friends Meeting, of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) approved sending the following letter to British Columbia Premier, John Horgan.
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT VICTORIA, BC V8W 9E1.
Email [email protected]
I had been work working for years to try to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines in the land called the United States. It felt like we had made little progress. President Obama did finally deny the permit for the Keystone pipeline. But his executive order was overturned by an executive order by the last occupant of the White House. Then President Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office to rescind the permit for Keystone.
So I was stunned when in January, 2020, I came across this video taken when the Coastal GasLink pipeline company was peacefully evicted from the lands of the Wet’suwet’en peoples in the Unist’ot’en territory in British Columbia. As Denzel Sutherland-Wilson says below, “I don’t think anyone’s ever really evicted like a 6 billion dollar pipeline before.“
The first time I heard about LANDBACK was when I saw this video.
Our culture and our tradition is the land. We are directly connected to the land. It’s our spirituality. We cannot be forced to be away from our land.
Nine days since we took the land back. It feels like something you don’t normally do. (laughter) Its revolutionary, right? I don’t think anyone’s ever really evicted like a 6 billion dollar pipeline before. People get confused about what we want as Native people. Like “what do you want?” Just like, “land back!”. Don’t need any reconciliation, don’t want money, like I don’t want programs or funding or whatever. (whispers "land back") Funny though, when I said that to my Dad, Wet’suwet’en people, if you tell them about LANDBACK, they’re like “we never lost the land, anyway.” Which is true.
I am learning about and working for #LANDBACK because Indigenous friends tell me this is how I/we white people can best support them. And because I continue to be alarmed at the environmental chaos we are experiencing, and will increasingly experience. I believe Indigenous leadership is our best hope to do what we can to slow down and try to deal with the increasingly devastating consequences of what we have done to Mother Earth.
As I said in the introduction cited above, I believe the first time I heard of the concept of #LANDBACK was when I became aware of the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples in British Columbia as they tried to protect their beautiful lands and clear, clean water from the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
Fossil fuel infrastructure has been the focus of environmental concern for many years. The location of fossil fuel infrastructure, including refineries and pipelines, is often an example of environmental racism. Pipelines have a terrible record of spills and devastating damage. Construction of pipelines often requires eminent domain to force landowners to allow pipeline construction on their land. Permission many would not give voluntarily.
One of the reasons for the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March I participated in was to call attention to the abuse of eminent domain for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
(see: First Nation-Farmer Unity March )
The rate and volume of fossil fuels getting to refineries via pipelines determines the availability of fossil fuels to burn. Without pipelines, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions would have been greatly reduced.
The pipeline companies tell landowners they will set aside the rich topsoil of the land, and put that back on top of where the pipeline lies. That usually is not done. Instead the rich topsoil is mixed with the underlying clay. Not only does that reduce the fertility of the soil for crops to grow in, the clay mixture interferes with drainage from the fields. Areas of standing water also impair crop growth.
Who has the authority to make decisions about that land is a little confusing. The hereditary chiefs are said to have that authority, because they never gave up the title to their lands, and have/are resisting the pipeline construction. There are also elected a band council that seems to be similar to mayors of cities.
TORONTO — Protests across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have prompted questions surrounding the difference between these chiefs and elected band councils — and the answer is complicated.
Essentially, the hereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.
While the band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.
“(The band council has) done their due diligence and they want to be part of this economic initiative, create jobs for their people, be part of the economy, and they balanced the environment and the economy,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations told CTV’s Power Play earlier this week.
“In the ancestral territory lands of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, it’s the hereditary chiefs and their clans and their big houses that have the jurisdiction,” Bellegarde added. “That’s the piece that’s missing, so when Coastal GasLink and governments come in, they didn’t bring the Wet’suwet’en nation and the proper people in place to deal with their ancestral lands.”
Anti-pipeline protests in support of the hereditary chiefs have halted train routes, ferry ports and busy intersections across the country since late last week.
Wet’suwet’en: What’s the difference between the elected band council and hereditary chiefs? by Ben Cousins, CTVNews,ca, Feb 13, 2020
Following are suggested questions for discussion after seeing the film. The questions can, of course, be used for that lands you live on.
I originally published much of the following article on February 12, 2020. The events described below took place during the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raid on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory on February 7, 2020.
What follows explains why I became involved in supporting the Wet’suwet’en and their struggles to stop the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline from being built on their beautiful lands.
I’ve spent a lot of time and effort working against pipelines myself. Through the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, and working against the Dakota Access pipeline. (see: #LANDBACK and Pipelines )
One of the reasons for revisiting this now is because my Native friends have told me the way we nonnative people can support them is to become engaged in #LANDBACK, which is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples. Land, Language, Ceremony, Medicines and Kinship. Denzel Sutherland-Wilson says below, “land back”.
As difficult as it is to learn about the attacks on the Wet’suwet’en peoples, these provide a real education for us nonnative peoples, showing that the oppressions of Indigenous peoples, the theft of their lands, language, ceremony, medicines and kinship, continue to this day.
I became involved because of the call for solidarity:
“All of our supporters helped us achieve the major victory of evicting Coastal GasLink from our unceded lands. Now, in the face of increasing RCMP threats of violence and intimidation, we need you to KEEP GOING – continue showing up and shutting it down. The time is NOW to recognize indigenous sovereignty around the world! We are asking for folks to harness the power of this catalyzing moment to create sustained action in solidarity. For ideas and information, check out our updated Supporter Toolkit.” February 16, 2020. UNIST’OT’EN | All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en: International Call for Solidarity! (unistoten.camp)
When I saw the horrible video that is included at the end of this, I recognized the names of the two land defenders on the tower who were threatened by guns pointing at them by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Denzel Sutherland-Wilson (Gitxsan) and Anne Spice (Tlingit).
The strength of social media is the powerful ways we can share our stories. I enjoyed hearing and seeing Eve Saint, Anne Spice and Denzel Sutherland-Wilson talk about their culture and what the land means to them. Hear them laugh when talking about evicting a 6 billion dollar pipeline. Whisper “land back.”
It’s like we get to know them just a little. It hit me very hard when I heard Denzel tell the RCMP they didn’t need to point guns at him. I was thinking “how could they possibly do that to someone who obviously loves the land he is on so much? The land he is defending with his very life?” He is so brave.
Our culture and our tradition is the land. We are directly connected to the land. It’s our spirituality. We cannot be forced to be away from our land.
Nine days since we took the land back.
It feels like something you don’t normally do. (laughter) Its revolutionary, right?
I don’t think anyone’s ever really evicted like a 6 billion dollar pipeline before.
People get confused about what we want as Native people. Like “what do you want?”
Just like, “land back!”. Don’t need any reconciliation, don’t want money, like I don’t want programs or funding or whatever.
(whispers “land back”)
Funny though, when I said that to my Dad, Wet’suwet’en people, if you tell them about LANDBACK, they’re like “we never lost the land, anyway.” Which is true.
Wet’suwet’en have never given up title to their 22,000 square kilometer territory
[ WARNING: This video contains graphic images of an armed threat on the lives of land defenders Denzel Sutherland-Wilson (Gitxsan) and Anne Spice (Tlingit). It may be traumatic for many to see. But we feel strongly that it should be available to witness. Denzel, Anne, and all the land defenders are now safe. These events took place during the RCMP raid on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory on February 7, 2020. The video was filmed by Gitxsan land defender Denzel Sutherland-Wilson from atop this tower. ]
When Canada is ready to kill us, reconciliation is dead. They deployed over 50 police officers, tactical teams, automatic weapons, dogs, snowmobiles, helicopters, and snipers to remove four unarmed Indigenous land defenders from unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Canada has us in its sights. They bring lethal force because they are afraid of our power. We have the land, and all the ancestors, and dozens of indigenous nations standing behind us. Our land defenders were arrested, but they are free and safe. The land is still under siege. Rise up.
#shutdowncanada #AllEyesOnWetsuweten #WetsuwetenStrong #ReconciliationIsDead #LandBack
Callout for Solidarity: http://unistoten.camp/alleyesonwetsuweten
Gidimt’en Call to action: http://www.yintahaccess.com
Donate to Gidimt’en camp: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gidimt039en-strong
Continuing with a review of the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ efforts to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the following is about the call for international solidarity in January, 2020. There were demonstrations of support all across Canada, and the world. The call is to recognize the urgency of stopping resource extractions projects. There is emphasis that actions of solidarity be conducted peacefully and according to the laws of the Indigenous nation(s) of that land.
And the note to “remember to take good photos and videos to share with the world” would have profound, but at the time unforeseen consequences on my life.
For the Week of Action, January 7-12, 2020, you answered the call for solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation. You organized rallies, marches, and rolling blockades. You put pressure on the government and industry. You raised funds, called your representatives, and disrupted “business as usual” all over the continent and the globe!
All of our supporters helped us achieve the major victory of evicting Coastal GasLink from our unceded lands. Now, in the face of increasing RCMP threats of violence and intimidation, we need you to KEEP GOING – continue showing up and shutting it down. The time is NOW to recognize indigenous sovereignty around the world! We are asking for folks to harness the power of this catalyzing moment to create sustained action in solidarity. For ideas and information, check out our updated Supporter Toolkit.
We call for solidarity actions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities who uphold Indigenous sovereignty and recognize the urgency of stopping resource extraction projects that threaten the lives of future generations.
Remember to take good photos and videos to share with the world.
Unceded and sovereign Wet’suwet’en land is under attack. On December 31, 2019, BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church granted an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en nation who have been stewarding and protecting our traditional territories from the destruction of multiple pipelines, including Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline. Hereditary Chiefs of all five Wet’suwet’en clans have rejected Church’s decision, which criminalizes Anuk ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), and have issued and enforced an eviction of CGL’s workers from the territory. The last CGL contractor was escorted out by Wet’suwet’en Chiefs on Saturday, January 4, 2020.
We watched communities across Canada and worldwide rise up with us in January 2019 when the RCMP violently raided our territories and criminalized us for upholding our responsibilities towards our land. Our strength to act today comes from the knowledge that our allies across Canada and around the world will again rise up with us, as they did for Oka, Gustafsen Lake, and Elsipogtog, shutting down rail lines, ports, and industrial infrastructure and pressuring elected government officials to abide by UNDRIP. The state needs to stop violently supporting those members of the 1% who are stealing our resources and condemning our children to a world rendered uninhabitable by climate change.
Light your sacred fires and come to our aid as the RCMP prepares again to enact colonial violence against Wet’suwet’en people.
We ask that all actions taken in solidarity are conducted peacefully and according to the laws of the Indigenous nation(s) of that land.
For more information:
Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit
Donate to Unist’ot’en
Donate to Gidimt’en
Earlier I wrote the first time I heard the term LANDBACK was from Denzel Sutherland-Wilson. I shared the awful video of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pointing sniper rifles at him. Canada is ready to kill us
At this same time his brother, Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, was bringing attention to these issues, including sitting outside the doors of the British Columbia legislature by himself for a week. His video on Colonialism in Canada is an excellent review of the subject, and brings together many of the issues related to #LANDBACK. (see below)
The following are excerpts from: Why Kolin Sutherland-Wilson can’t stay quiet. UVic student’s week-long protest draws attention to movement against pipeline project in northwestern B.C. by Josh Kozelj, Martlet, Jan 22, 2020
It was not until 1997, following failed negotiations with the province, that the Supreme Court of Canada found B.C. had no right to extinguish the rights of Indigenous peoples to their traditional territory. It was made clear that it was the hereditary chiefs who have the authority and title over this land.
Kolin was four years old.
It’s now 2020, and as a natural introvert, Kolin would prefer to avoid the spotlight.
He describes himself as a “hermit,” and typically enjoys quiet time at home with his wife and cat. However, when he woke up last December and learned that the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to stop Wet’suwet’en peoples and anti-pipeline protesters from blocking roads to a pipeline project on their traditional territory, he knew something had to be done.
After the hereditary chiefs called for a week of solidarity, Sutherland-Wilson decided to stage a solo week-long strike of his own outside the B.C. Legislature in support of the Wet’suwet’en peoples against the pipeline. He walked out during the first week of classes on Jan. 6 and was there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of that week.
Sitting in the NSU’s office in the basement of the Student Union Building, on an abnormally cold and snowy day in Victoria, Sutherland-Wilson gently clasps his hands together and stares straight ahead. The words “All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en” are written in big block letters on the whiteboard just over his right shoulder. He closes his chestnut-brown eyes for a few seconds, opening them to reveal weary tinges of red.
“Sitting on the steps was the least I could do, just to be a constant presence down there at the Legislature, just to be a constant reminder that what is happening is unacceptable and that B.C. has a duty to approach this nation-to-nation relationship in good faith and to not rely once again on the force of the RCMP like they did last year,” he says.
On Jan. 6, the first day of his week-long protest, Sutherland-Wilson published a video, “Colonialism in Canada: What is happening at Unist’ot’en?” to YouTube explaining the history of the Wet’suwet’en nation and why they continue to fight for their land.
It’s the final weekday of his week-long protest at the Legislature, and Kolin is sitting on the front steps.
The weather is cold, and he’s there day until night, but it’s nothing compared to the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures that protesters are facing on Wet’suwet’en territory in northwestern B.C.
Hundreds of UVic students walked out of class on Jan. 10 to stand in solidarity with Sutherland-Wilson and the hereditary chiefs. They marched around Ring Road and met Kolin at the Legislature with signs and banners — shocking the student who originally planned to just be a single constant presence at the provincial building.
“When everyone came down and joined me at the Legislature,” he says before pausing and recollecting the moment. Sutherland-Wilson tears apart his hands from a clasped position, and begins to rub them along the length of his thighs.
“Just the fact they went down there to join me, and stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en … I think it really helped me fully communicate my purpose for being down there.”
He says a lot of his knowledge comes from his father and Elders in his home community, the same people who have been fighting this same struggle for generations.
It’s tiring and cold sitting on the steps of the Legislature for hours and hours on end, but Sutherland-Wilson says it’s his duty to follow his heart.
“Lives are on the line, people I love and know,” He says. “I don’t really have a choice but to make as much noise as possible, to try and get as much information out there as possible.”
There’s probably a million other places he would be — including quiet time at home with his wife and cat — but, like his father over two decades ago, he knows there’s still work that needs to be done.
Why Kolin Sutherland-Wilson can’t stay quiet. UVic student’s week-long protest draws attention to movement against pipeline project in northwestern B.C. by Josh Kozelj, Martlet, Jan 22, 2020
In this video Kolin speaks to those gathered with him at the gate of the British Columbia Legislature as mentioned above.
Later, Kolin was among those arrested during a sit-in that began after a “wholly ineffective” meeting with B.C. Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser. The demonstrators said they met with Fraser to discuss the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C., but they don’t believe their concerns were addressed. Kolin jokes at one point about arrest. "You know its funny, young Indigenous people trespassing on unceded Indigenous land."
Feb 6, 2020
This morning at approximately 4:30am, heavily militarized RCMP launched their long anticipated raid on Wet’suwet’en land defenders. RCMP invaded unceded Wet’suwet’en territory to facilitate construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.
Dozens of cops with dogs and assault rifles arrested 6 unarmed people at the 39 km marker of the Morice West Forest Service Road, and a large contingent of RCMP trucks and heavy equipment have moved onwards towards the Gidimt’en Access point at the 44 km marker.
This was a monitoring post, set up to look out for Wet’suwet’en people further up the road at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Unist’ot’en Camp. NO ONE was violating any injunction.
RCMP said they would use the least amount of force possible, but they deployed a full scale invading force.
We have never ceded or surrendered this land and we never will. We stand strong. No amount of force will stop us from being Wet’suwet’en, or living on our lands.
Two camps currently face the prospect of militarized police violence. We won’t back down. All eyes on #Wetsuweten yintah!
Where ever you are, those who stand with us, we need you now. We need you to take a stand and stand up and fight back against this kind of oppression against our people.
The time has come for supporters to rise up and #ShutDownCanada.
In response, I created a Facebook event, “Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en” to be held the next day. Supporters were asked to share their events with Wet’suwet’en organizers so they could all be posted in one place. To show how much support there was for the Wet’suwet’en, and make it easier for people to find events to attend.
We make conscious decisions to either sit back and watch, or stand up and be heard.Wet’suwete’n Access Point at Gidemt’en
We make choices as to whether protect our future generations, or we allow for a destitute future for them.
We make choices as to enter the uncomfortable place of change and movement, or we continue on this downward spiral.
What will your choice be?
Will you sit back and allow for human rights violations to occur, or will you #RiseUp with us?
Militarized RCMP attempted to force the Wet’suwet’en peoples to allow construction of the pipeline in 2019. But they were unsuccessful.
Since that time, the Wet’suwet’en people continued to build structures on their land, such as the healing center. But were aware of the likelihood of another RCMP invasion to attempt to force them to allow construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Yesterday’s post describes that invasion occurring on Feb. 6, 2020.
Yesterday’s article also describes the Wet’suwet’en calls for solidarity from supporters. What could we do in Iowa? Iowa solidarity as RCMP invades Wet’sutwet’en
In the summer of 2019 Paula Palmer came to Iowa and Nebraska to give presentations and workshops related to her ministry regarding “Toward Right relationship with Native Peoples.” Peter Clay, Linda Lemons and I were among those who helped organize those events. Afterwards, we wanted to see what we could do with what we had learned. We had scheduled to get together with a few others at Friends House on February 7, 2020.
When we learned about the RCMP invasion of the Wet’suwet’en lands that began on February 6th, we decided to hold a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en prior to our scheduled meeting on February 7th. That’s how Friends House became the site of the vigil. [Note: We met at Friends House, attached to Des Moines Valley Friends meeting, but this wasn’t an approved event the Meeting.]
Peter and I made signs, and Linda brought prayer ribbons.
We knew there was almost no media coverage of what was going on with the Wet’suwet’en peoples, and didn’t think anyone else would join us. I was surprised and glad to see someone none of us knew at the time approach. Ronnie James is an Indigenous organizer with many years of experience. He told us he was surprised anyone in Des Moines knew about the Wet’suwet’en peoples.
I believe this meeting was Spirit led. Ronnie was to become a very good friend. After the vigil, he accepted my Facebook friend request, and began to teach me about his work with Des Moines Mutual Aid. This was life changing for me. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of the concept of Mutual Aid, but am grateful for his generous time mentoring me. I soon became involved with one the Des Moines Mutual Aid’s projects, the weekly food distribution.
Ronnie is part of the Great Plains Action Society, along with people I had become friends with during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018. Including Sikowis (Christine Nobiss), Alton and Foxy Onefeather, and Trisha Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga Etringer.
I am just beginning to learn about LANDBACK. When I asked my Indigenous friends how I could best support them, they said “LANDBACK”. One of the ways I learn is by writing. Here are some posts thus far: landback | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com).
Learning which sources of information are authentic is one of the first challenges. Most of the following is from landback.org. which is a project of the NDN Collective. Friends tell me this is a good source.
NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.Defend. Develop. Decolonize. | NDN Collective
LANDBACK is a movement that has existed for generations with a long legacy of organizing and sacrifice to get Indigenous Lands back into Indigenous hands. Currently, there are LANDBACK battles being fought all across Turtle Island, to the north and the South.
As NDN Collective, we are stepping into this legacy with the launch of the LANDBACK Campaign as a mechanism to connect, coordinate, resource and amplify this movement and the communities that are fighting for LANDBACK. The closure of Mount Rushmore, return of that land and all public lands in the Black Hills, South Dakota is our cornerstone battle, from which we will build out this campaign. Not only does Mount Rushmore sit in the heart of the sacred Black Hills, but it is an international symbol of white supremacy and colonization. To truly dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, we have to go back to the roots. Which, for us, is putting Indigenous Lands back in Indigenous hands.LANDBACK Manifesto
#LANDBACK is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.
In addition, LANDBACK is more than just a campaign. It is a meta narrative that allows us to deepen our relationships across the field of organizing movements working towards true collective liberation. It allows us to envision a world where Black, Indigenous & POC liberation co-exists. It is our political, organizing and narrative framework from which we do the work.
I recently saw an interview on NBC with a young, white man. This was in Minneapolis on the day the Derek Chauvin verdict was announced, April 20, 2021. The young man said something like ‘I Googled: how can a white man help Black Lives Matter?’
I’ve had a number of thoughts about that. I appreciated that he wanted to help. And at the same time saw this as a continued disconnect between white people, and black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).
During the struggles of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s there was a lot of attention to “integration”. To make it possible for black children to attend what had been white schools. For BIPOC people to be able to shop and eat in what had been white businesses. To drink from water fountains, use restrooms! To use public transportation. And participate in electoral politics.
Martin Luther King, Jr, said, “Injustice anywhere Is injustice everywhere.”
That is highlighted today as the assault on voting rights has spread from the disfranchisement of BIPOC people, to white people, as well.
Although BIPOC children have been attending what had been white schools, and the other examples above have seen some integration, in many ways communities have self-segregated. So it’s not surprising the young, white man above didn’t know how to help with racial injustice today.
There isn’t a simple answer for white people to the question “how can I help”? I’ve written a great deal about my experiences, as a white male, becoming involved with the Kheprw Institute in Indianapolis. A BIPOC youth mentoring and empowerment community. Kheprw | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)
Here are a few general guidelines from my experiences. Perhaps the biggest initial concept is this is not about “you”, as a white person. It is not easy for white people to begin to engage with BIPOC people. It takes persistence in showing up to allow the gradual development of a little trust to begin.
Hurtful things will happen. As you learn, you will make mistakes. Say or do things offensive to those you want to help. See and hear negative things about white people in general. And perhaps you in particular. Some of these things will surprise you. But if you persist, you will learn. It is important to listen deeply. And not say much until you are invited to do so. When that happens, speak from your own experiences. It is by sharing our stories with each other that we begin to know each other. Don’t talk about things you have read, or workshops you’ve participated in.
“Nothing About Us Without Us!” is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. This involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often thought to be marginalized from political, social, and economic opportunities.Nothing About Us Without Us
Four years ago I moved to Iowa from Indianapolis, where I spent my whole adult life. It was sad to leave the many friends I had made over the years there. The friendships remain despite the distance.
Most recently a number of us were working to protect the water from the Dakota Access pipeline. Although that pipeline was not built in Indiana, there were offices of banks that funded it in Indianapolis. We worked to educate people about the dangers of the pipeline. And had several actions related to the banks, asking them to defund their contributions to fossil fuel projects. Dakota Access pipeline Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)
When I moved to Iowa, I sought opportunities to build similar relationships. And have been truly blessed to be finding them. As I had begun to learn in Indianapolis, and continued to learn in Iowa, it is essential for Indigenous peoples to lead this work.
The reason I’m writing about “how can I help?” today relates to several groups, mainly Quakers, who are asking that question in relation to BIPOC concerns and work. While I’ve been learning a lot about, and participating in some of the work of BIPOC friends, I hadn’t asked them that question.
I’ve found ways to participate in their work, which are answers to “how can I help?” I was invited to the Meskwaki powwow, and did attend with my Dad. Being aware of cultural appropriation, I asked ahead of time if I could take photos. And was told I could, and asked to share them with the powwow organizers, which I did.
I attended the National Network Assembly that some of my Indigenous friends helped organize. I attended all the public Zoom events of theirs that I could. And public events like Indigenous People’s Day, calling for the removal of racist monuments, and events to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives.
But I hadn’t really asked my BIPOC friends what others, like white Quakers, could do to help. So I did.
One thing is to continue to work in Mutual Aid communities, like I do with Des Moines Mutual Aid. But to also develop Mutual Aid communities where we are. At Bear Creek Friends meeting we have been talking about these ideas. Des Moines Valley Friends are letting Mutua Aid groups use their kitchen to make meals for the houseless.
Several of us gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, for a vigil in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples. Our friends at Bold Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) helped notify people about our vigil. Thank you and thanks to those who attended.
As I’ve been writing,the Wet’suwet’en peoples have declared the week of December 20 as a time for international support for their struggle to stop the completion of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their pristine lands and water.
The map shows only two actions were planned in the Midwest. One is the action we took at the Chase bank in Des Moines yesterday, and the second will be held today in Chicago. Ironically, a mutual friend introduced me to Daniel, another Quaker working in support of the Wet’suwet’en and for LandBack. Daniel will be participating in the Midwest solidarity event in Chicago today.
The people in the bank were clearly uncomfortable when we entered, but we were silent and non-threatening as we waited for the manager to appear. I was told I could not take photos in the bank and immediately stopped, although I had several shots prior to that.
Dear Branch Manager Minnihan,
As concerned residents of Des Moines and surrounding areas in Iowa, we are gathering today at the Chase bank branch on Merle Hay Road to demand that Chase immediately stops funding of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) project in Wet’suwet’en territory.
Coastal GasLink does not have the consent of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, whose title to the land the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes. And yet Chase has continued to bankroll this illegal project and the destruction of Wet’suwet’en land, When met with resistance, the CGL project deployed sniper rifles and militarized squads against unarmed Indigenous peoples on their own land. People will not stand for this.
We demand that Chase immediately stops funding Coastal GasLink and profiting off of the illegal destruction and invasion of Wet’suwet’en land.
Attached are copies of the eviction notice issued on January 4, 2020, by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the notice of enforcement issues on November 14, 2020.
Concerned local residents of Des Moines, Iowa
There is great urgency now to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en because drilling has begun under Wedzwin Kwa, the river running through Wet’suwet’en territory. Many salmon are present for spawning.
During the organizing call, Chief Na’Moks emphasized what was happening affects us all because of the global nature of greenhouse emissions, and the global struggle for Indigenous sovereignty. Saying the nation (Canada) needs a moral shakeup.
When Chief Na’Moks was finally able to visit the site of the drilling at the river he said the sounds and vibrations of the construction could be heard kilometers away.
He said our ancestors were outlaws. We are grateful to them now. We have to act now. Organize yourselves to protect the future of us all. “When you see something wrong, you must say something about it. If not, you are guilty by association. You must go to your politicians for the benefit of the children, of everyone. I was taught to stand up for my children and future generations.”
We are reaching the point of no return. If the water is ruined, there will be a ripple effect. On farming, cattle, food, etc.. This is happening now.
You guys are good people. So is anyone who stands up. People cannot sit on the fence. I appreciate your ears, your brains. I hope your intelligence will help us out.
Coordinated rallies are being planned at RBC banks in Canada, one of the main companies financing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. This is a link to a map of locations of actions to support the Wet’suwet’en. https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/drilling-under-wedzwin-kwa-allid-mobilization
Yesterday, over an emotional hour-long webinar, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have called upon you to stand up in solidarity with them by mobilizing and organizing long term in support of them.
Now is the time to act. If you are already taking action in any way, we look forward to standing in solidarity together. If you want to take action but aren’t already planning to or don’t know how, we are here to support you.
“I was taught to stand up … I was taught to earn my own way … I need to move forward with this. I’m hoping that I am making sense to all those that are listening. I appreciate your ears. I appreciate your brain. And hopefully your intelligence will help us out in a way that is a good way. Misiyh,” said Chief Woos last night.
“We never never allowed this project to go through. There has been no consent from any of the hereditary chiefs or our people. We have villages that signed on, but villages only have jurisdiction within their reserve,” added Chief Na’Moks.
For Molly Wickham, “(t)he ‘Memorandum of Understanding in 2020’ was meant to put an end to Shutdown Canada… Shutdown Canada impacted their pocketbook… it brought into question the viability of the way they’re treating Indigenous Peoples, of the way they were treating the Wet’suwet’en by bringing in militarized raids into our territories. Because of this they came to the table… and this was supposed to be .. the implementation of what our ancestors … had been fighting for.”