First Nations unite to fight industrial exploitation of Australia’s Martuwarra

First Nations unite to fight industrial exploitation of Australia’s Martuwarra

This story first appeared in Mongabay.

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  • The Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, one of the country’s most ecologically and culturally significant waterways, is facing proposals of further agriculture and mining development, including irrigation and fracking.
  • In response, First Nations communities in the region have developed different methods to promote the conservation of the river, including curating cultural festivals, funding awareness campaigns, and working with digital technologies.
  • First Nations land rights are held along the length of the Fitzroy River, the first time this has occurred across an entire catchment area in Australia.
  • The catchment is the last stronghold of the world’s most “evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered” species, the freshwater sawfish (Pristis pristis) and is home to the threatened northern river shark (Glyphis garricki).

WEST KIMBERLEY, Australia — November marks the end of the dry season in the Kimberley, the northernmost region of Western Australia, the country’s largest state. As the monsoonal rains start to fall, the country comes alive with the cries of red winged parrots (Aprosmictus erythropterus) and the Fitzroy River begins to run.

Stretching more than 700 kilometers (435 miles), the Fitzroy River is one of Australia’s most powerful waterways, a free-flowing system that passes through range, savanna and desert country to empty into the Indian Ocean each year.

Anne Poelina, a Nyikina Warrwa traditional Indigenous custodian of the river, said it’s her duty to care for the Martuwarra, the river’s original and enduring name.

“Martuwarra is a living, ancestral being,” she said. “It has a right to life, to live and to flow. We live by an obligatory law to protect the River of Life. It is the essence of our spirituality, identity, culture and law.”

The river was granted National Heritage Listing in 2011 due to its spiritual, cultural and environmental values. Native title, a federally recognized titling to traditional Indigenous lands and waters, is now held along the entire length of the river, the first time land rights have been held across an entire catchment area in Australia.

The Fitzroy is also the last stronghold of the world’s most “evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered” species, the freshwater sawfish (Pristis pristis). According to a 2019 study, its continued existence in the waters is due to the low level of human disturbance — namely mining and agriculture — compared to other rivers around the world. The authors recommended that any “further anthropogenic disturbance [to the Fitzroy River] should be minimized to maintain what is still a relatively pristine habitat.”

However, on the world’s driest inhabited continent, these life-giving waters are now a source of contention. Currently, agricultural and mining development proposals are being assessed to develop the Fitzroy catchment and the greater Kimberley region.

Such is the cultural significance of the river, that proposals have been met with scrutiny by traditional owners, and have led some to implement methods to preserve the river’s cultural and ecological significance.

Agriculture debate continues as fracking proposals arise

Chief among the industrial proposals earmarked for the Fitzroy are those linked to agriculture. Pastoral opportunities have long been debated in the Fitzroy catchment, with dams unsuccessfully planned along the river since the 1990s. In 2018, however, the incumbent state government pledged that there would be no future dams along the Fitzroy or its tributaries.

Despite this, the future of the Fitzroy remains uncertain. First announced in November 2020, the WA state government is currently assessing the feasibility of allowing up to 300 billion liters (79 billion gallons) of surface water to be taken out of the river each year through irrigation development to grow fodder for livestock. Conservationists say this will affect the flow of the river and, consequently, the diverse and unique ecosystem it supports, with threatened species including the northern river shark (Glyphis garricki), one of the world’s rarest fish.

While the debate rages on over pastoral activities in the catchment, there are other questions being raised about opening up the catchment to hydrofracturing stimulation.

Commonly known as fracking, hydrofracturing stimulation is an extractive process that involves injecting a high-pressure fluid made of sand, water and chemical additives into a drilled well to crack the rock and free natural gas from deep underground.

As much of the Fitzroy catchment sits on the Canning Basin, the largest shale gas reserve in Australia, the region has become a central focus of the federal government to boost the country’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery and strengthen the local energy market.

As Mongabay previously reported, a 2016 moratorium on fracking in WA state was lifted three years ago, allowing fracking in just 2% of the state. Much of that area falls in the western Kimberley, including parts of the Fitzroy catchment. In October 2021, the state government further backtracked on this minor concession and granted an exemption to the policy for an oil and gas company, Bennett Resources.

A subsidiary of Texas mining company Black Mountain Metals, the company has proposed drilling 20 exploratory wells, one of which lies just a kilometer (0.6 miles) from a tributary of the Fitzroy.

Bennett Resources did not respond to requests for comment from Mongabay. However, the company announced that it is seeking to extract up to 900 terajoules (953 million cubic feet) of gas a day once the gas fields peak.

In Australia, companies are able to secure mining leases that incorporate land recognized as native title. Rather than grant First Nations complete autonomy over their land, native title legislation mandates that communities enter into negotiations with mining companies regardless of whether they welcome industry on their land or not. Consequently, mining leases can incorporate the lands of multiple groups divided over development. As such, while the wells proposed by Bennett Resources are located in the territory of one community that has entered into fracking agreements, other groups on the lease either remain opposed to the process or are still undecided.

Roger Cook, the WA minister for state development and deputy premier, did not respond to requests by Mongabay for comment on industrial development in the Fitzroy catchment. However, in October, Cook told national broadcaster ABC that the exemption for Bennett Resources was granted because the project would help build gas pipelines to connect the area to the broader WA energy network.

Just how significant the resulting pipeline will be or whether it will cross native title land or the river itself remains to be seen.

Bennett Resources’ proposal says potential impacts could include contamination of surface aquifers due to well integrity failure. WA’s Environmental Protection Authority is currently assessing the proposal to ascertain whether the catchment will be compromised and the effects on species.

A festival to protect the river

For Joe Ross, director of the Bunuba Dawangirri Aboriginal Corporation, his connections to the river are ancient. An Indigenous Bunuba man whose ancestors come from the area, Ross is a seasoned advocate for the protection of the Fitzroy River catchment. In the late 1990s, he was influential in stopping the damming of the river for irrigation proposals.

In July this year, Ross organized a festival on his ancestral territory of Danggu, also known by its colonial name, Geikie Gorge. Named Yajilarra, meaning “let us dream” in the Bunuba language, the three-day festival included traditional stories told through stage performance. According to Ross, this enabled Bunuba children to interact with their elders and explore their identity.

“The aim of the festival was to celebrate our culture and revitalize our language,” Ross told Mongabay. “In doing so, we were promoting local industry, leadership for our younger people and our connection to country and the river itself.”

Following this, the festival featured a night of music and discussion about the river’s cultural and ecological values, bringing together some of the most influential and powerful individuals and corporations in Australia, including Australia’s richest man, mining mogul Andrew Forrest.

Significantly, Forrest’s investments in the Kimberley in recent years relate to the industrial proposals the Fitzroy catchment now faces. In 2019, Forrest’s privately owned energy company, Squadron Energy, bought into fracking interests in the western Kimberley. And in December 2020, he finalized a deal that saw the purchase of two pastoral stations bordering the Fitzroy River, giving livestock access to the water.

“We are passionate about the unique environment of the Kimberley, and the precious waterway and lifeforce that is the Fitzroy River,” Forrest said in a media statement last year.

“We strongly believe in the principle of balancing the need for sustainable agriculture and job creation for local communities, with the need to preserve culture and heritage sites, while restoring the land and its original fauna to its natural habitat.”

However, shortly after the Yajilarra festival, Squadron Energy abandoned its fracking interests in the Kimberley, calling the move a strategic decision given that the process is at odds with the organization’s climate policy.

For Ross, the festival achieved what it set out to.

“The feedback we have received is that the Yajilarra festival was as good as could be,” he said. “What this shows is that we have the capacity to continue these events, to promote our culture and to build ongoing dialogue about the future of the Kimberley.”

A campaign to encourage public engagement

The Kimberley Land Council (KLC), one of Australia’s most prominent First Nations land rights organizations, has also backed proposals to protect the Fitzroy catchment. Though the KLC is tasked chiefly with advocating for its member communities, taking a stand against disputes is rare given the organization is constantly entering into negotiations with government and industry. However, the KLC’s stance became unequivocable in regards to the future of the river.

Declaring that traditional owners “have never consented to the extraction of water and oppose development of the river and its floodplain,” the KLC encouraged the general public to support the protection of the river. This was done by making submissions to the state government’s call for public consultation titled the “Fitzroy River Water Discussion Paper.”

The KLC followed this through with an awareness campaign that involved running an advertisement in WA’s highest-selling daily newspaper. This resulted in more than 43,000 submissions to the discussion paper, one of the largest results in public feedback for an environmental issue in state history.

According to a media statement by the KLC, the river should be preserved in its current state as a cultural and linguistic landscape.

“The cultural management of the Fitzroy River catchment is a responsibility that traditional owners have had since creation and take very seriously,” said the organization’s CEO. “Traditional owners have not consented to large-scale irrigation extraction processes and want to see the river protected as a healthy and thriving ecosystem.”

New media and digital technologies

When the proposals began, Anne Poelina, an adjunct senior research fellow with the University of Notre Dame, Australia, who focuses on Indigenous environmental policy, was driven to act, given the risks she felt were posed to the river system and beyond.

“The first element that needs to be acknowledged is that we believe these living water systems are already fully allocated,” she said. “Any alteration to the river, the taking of water or the compromising of the catchment, will impact our lifeways, our culture, our conservation and our values.”

Concerned at the potential for industry to hinder the flow of the river and its consequential effects on culture and ecology, Poelina, as executive chair, helped unite six native title nations along the river together to form the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council (MFRC).

Formed in 2018, the MFRC brought nations from across the river’s reaches into a united body through which to engage with government and industry. Under Poelina, the council used digital technologies to promote the cultural and ecological values of the river, producing multiple films to encourage traditional owners throughout the catchment to promote the multiple values of the river.

Floodplain of the Fitzroy River with Willare and King Sound in the far distance. Image courtesy of Yaru Man via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

“Digital storytelling has had a remarkable impact,” Poelina said. “We have a global platform from which to discuss our relationship with the river and the response to our work has been overwhelming. We have been asked to address global forums and be a part of multiple film festivals around the world.”

These resources have also helped in the preservation of Indigenous and scientific knowledge. By engaging with scientists and geographers, Poelina has been able to orchestrate studies that have confirmed the ecological, cultural and legal significance of the river country, one of which has included Martuwarra itself as a co-author. This has advanced the argument for legal recognition of the river as a living ancestral being and granting it certain rights.

“We have also used technology to create a whole database of maps, like the water and vegetation types of the river,” Poelina said. “This has helped map and conserve our cultural heritage, our songs and our ongoing, ancestral connection to the Martuwarra.”

Questions for the future

Anthony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum professor of engineering emeritus at Cornell University, told Mongabay there’s no straightforward way to answer how many fracking wells would be needed to produce Bennett Resources’ goal of extracting up to 900 terajoules of gas a day.

Drawing on examples from the United States, Ingraffea said that at a certain rate and with advanced technology, “it would take a few hundred wells to produce 850 million cubic feet a day over a sustained period of time.”

However, he said that in any case, three factors are at play: the length of time for a certain production rate, how quickly the operator can put wells into production, and the quality of the shale gas produced.

“All shale gas wells experience what is called a decline curve of production, that is, the rate of production rapidly decreases over time,” he said.

Ingraffea highlighted a case in Texas in which approximately 2,000 wells were drilled over a cumulative period of six years to produce 850 million cubic feet a day, the same output that Bennet Resources is aiming for.

Given the significance of the Fitzroy River’s aquatic and mineral resources, the future of the catchment will be discussed at all levels of government as the feedback from the Fitzroy River Water Discussion Paper is released and future fracking development is proposed.

Ross and Poelina say they would like to ensure that the ecological and cultural significance of the river to First Nations communities is taken into account in that conversation.

“The Kimberley is one of the last places in the world that has not been taken over by mass industrialization,” Poelina said. “Our people have walked this country since the dawn of time, we know it better than anyone. We want to continue to care for the land as she looks after us.”

Fitzroy River, downstream from Fitzroy Crossing Bridge. Image courtesy of Yaru Man/Flickr.

Citations:

Lear, K. O., Gleiss, A. C., Whitty, J. M., Fazeldean, T., Albert, J. R., Green, N., … Morgan, D. L. (2019). Recruitment of a critically endangered sawfish into a riverine nursery depends on natural flow regimes. Scientific Reports9(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53511-9

RiverOfLife, M., Poelina, A., Bagnall, D., & Lim, M. (2020). Recognizing the Martuwarra’s First Law right to life as a living ancestral being. Transnational Environmental Law, 9(3), 541-568. doi:10.1017/S2047102520000163

Banner image: The Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis pristis) is the most Evolutionary Distinct and Greatly Endangered (EDGE) animal in the world. Its last stronghold is the Fitzroy River catchment. Image courtesy of Peter Kyne/Wikimedia Commons.

Statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network in Support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples

Statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network in Support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples

This story was originally published by the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Indigenous Environmental Network condemns the actions of Canada as it inflicts settler violence against the Wet’suwet’en peoples, hypocritically breaking both Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law to push TC Energy’s illegal Coastal Gaslink pipeline through unceded territories.

By entering sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory with RCMP, dogs and assault rifles we are witnessing state-sanctioned violence on behalf of an Oil company, and such barbarous acts of violence inflicted upon Indigenous peoples cannot be defended. These attacks by RCMP are nothing less than Human Rights violations as defined by the United Nations, and acts of extreme detriment to the inherent sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en. The Wet’suwet’en have asserted self-governance over their territories since time immemorial, and it is their inherent right to defend their lands, resources and bodies from foreign aggressors. They have signed no treaties nor have they relinquished title to their lands. They are not part of so-called Canada and have not consented to bearing the burden of the world’s dependence on an extractive industry such as oil.

We will continue to support the Wet’suwet’en in their struggle and call on others to join us in supporting our relatives. From disrupting business as usual to divesting from banks funding the theft of Indigenous lands, there are steps we can all take to stand with our relatives. These barbarous acts of violent aggression must cease and the inherent right to self determination must be upheld.

How You Can Help:
Over the past two days heavily militarized RCMP tactical team have descending on Coyote Camp with snipers, assault rifles, and K9 units,

In total, eleven people were arrested at Coyote Camp, including Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson, Sleydo’, and Dinï’ze Woos’ daughter, Jocey. Four more were arrested at 44km later that day, including Sleydo’s husband, Cody.

Solidarity actions began immediately. Now is the time. Plan, organize or join an action where you are.

🔥Issue a solidarity statement from your organization or group and tag us.

🔥Host a solidarity rally or action in your area.

🔥Pressure the government, banks, and investors. http://yintahaccess.com/take-action-1

🔥Donate. http://go.rallyup.com/wetsuwetenstrong

🔥Spread the word. #WetsuwetenStrong #AllOutForWedzinKwa #ShutDownCanada

More information and developing stories:

Website: Yintahaccess.com

IG: @yintah_access

Twitter: @Gidimten

Facebook: @wetsuwetenstrong

Youtube: Gidimten Access Point

TikTok: GidimtenCheckpoint

Background:

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs represent a governance system that predates colonization and the Indian Act which was created in an attempt to outlaw Indigenous peoples from their lands.

The Wet’suwet’en have continued to exercise their unbroken, unextinguished, and unceded right to govern and occupy their lands by continuing and empowering the clan-based governance system to this day. Under Wet’suwet’en law, clans have a responsibility and right to control access to their territories.
The validity of the Wet’suwet’en house and clan system was verified in the Delgamuukw and Red Top Decisions that uphold the authority of the hereditary system on Wet’suwet’en traditional territories.

At this very moment a standoff is unfolding, the outcome of which will determine the future of Northern “BC” for generations to come. Will the entire region be overtaken by the fracking industry, or will Indigenous people asserting their sovereignty be successful in repelling the assault on their homelands?

The future is unwritten. What comes next will be greatly influenced by actions taken in the coming days and weeks. This is a long-term struggle, but it is at a critical moment. That is why we say: The Time is Now. If you are a person of conscience and you understand the magnitude of what is at stake, ask yourself how you might best support the grassroots Wet’suwet’en.

Indigenous Leaders Hail Biden’s Proposed Chaco Canyon Drilling Ban as ‘Important First Step’

Indigenous Leaders Hail Biden’s Proposed Chaco Canyon Drilling Ban as ‘Important First Step’

Editor’s note: We would hope that this action would be a turning point where the United States stops its management planning philosophy of “natural resources” and focuses on the protection of all living beings. Yet how tenative only 10-mile buffer for only 20 years and does not include all extractive industries. Basically less than undoing what Trump illegally did. After all they still have the Gulf of Mexico.


This story first appeared in Common Dreams.

“We are most hopeful that this action is a turning point where the United States natural resource management planning philosophy focuses on the protection of all living beings.”

November 15, 2021

A coalition of Southwestern Indigenous leaders on Monday applauded President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland following the announcement of a proposed 20-year fossil fuel drilling ban around the sacred Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico—even as the administration prepares to auction off tens of millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction later this week.

“While there is still work to be done, these efforts to safeguard tribes and communities will be essential to protect the region from the disastrous effects of oil and gas development.”

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” Haaland—the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history—said in a statement Monday.

“Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations,” she added. “I value and appreciate the many tribal leaders, elected officials, and stakeholders who have persisted in their work to conserve this special area.”

Carol Davis, executive director of the group Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (Diné CARE), asserted that “the people in the Greater Chaco Landscape live by this maxim: What you do to the Earth; you do to the people.”

“Today President Biden is not just protecting and healing the earth and sky, he is protecting and healing the people,” she added. “We are most hopeful that this action is a turning point where the United States natural resource management planning philosophy focuses on the protection of all living beings.”

According to the Greater Chaco Coalition:

The Greater Chaco region is a living and ancient cultural landscape. A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico was the ceremonial and economic center of the Chaco Cultural Landscape, an area encompassing more than 75,000 square miles of the Southwest in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and sacred to Indigenous peoples.

Today, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Americas, yet the vast majority of the area is leased to oil and gas activities. Indigenous people, primarily Pueblo and Navajo (Diné) peoples, sacred cultural sites, precious water resources, and the area’s biodiversity are all under a grave and growing threat from fracking.

“For over a century, the federal government has quite literally treated the Greater Chaco Landscape like a national energy sacrifice zone,” the coalition continued. “The region has been victim to large-scale resource exploitation, which includes a history of Navajo displacement and land repatriation that has carved the Greater Chaco Landscape into a complex checkerboard of federal, state, private, and Navajo allotment land.”

“A maze of federal and state agencies control the area, which has allowed oil, gas, and mining companies to exploit layers of law, regulations, and oversight agencies,” it added. “A recent boom of industrialized fracking across New Mexico has made it the second-biggest oil producer in the United States, with more than 91% of available lands in the Greater Chaco area leased for fracking.”

Diné Allottees Against Oil Exploitation (DAoX) said that “we and our heirs greatly welcome the action by President Biden to not just protect the 10-mile buffer surrounding the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park boundaries but to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape in its entirety. Our rights as landowners, our trustee relationship with the federal government, as well as our communities’ public health, has been greatly impacted by oil and gas industry fracking, alongside other extractive industries in the area, for decades.”

The group continued:

Because of the absence of free, prior, and informed consent, nearly all of the rubber-stamping actions from federal management agencies across the Greater Chaco Landscape are textbook examples of the absence of meaningful tribal engagement, and represent the impacts of environmental and institutional racism. We were not adequately informed and did not consent to more than 40,000 oil and gas wells that already litter the Greater Chaco region.

The oil and gas industry is second to none when it comes to disrespecting tribal communities, furthering institutional and environmental racism against our people and across this landscape. Most reprehensible was the fact that federal agencies facilitated the destruction and contamination of our communities while a global pandemic raged.

“This federal racist injustice cannot be forgotten. President Biden and Secretary Haaland’s actions today start to turn this racist status quo on its head,” DAoX added. “We feel that the racial injustice that has been perpetrated on our communities has caused the coming of an unavoidable reckoning to the people who knowingly permitted the destruction of our communities.”

Raena Garcia, fossil fuels and lands campaigner at Friends of the Earth, called the administration’s Chaco Canyon announcement “an important first step towards permanent protection.”

“While there is still work to be done, these efforts to safeguard tribes and communities will be essential to protect the region from the disastrous effects of oil and gas development,” she added.

The Interior Department’s announcement arrives as the Biden administration—which has come under fire from Indigenous and environmental leaders for approving more fossil fuel drilling projects on public lands than either of its two predecessors—prepares to auction off more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel extraction on Wednesday.

The lease sale will take place just days after the president pleaded with world leaders for “every nation to do its part” to combat the climate emergency at the recently concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit,” Kristen Monsell, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ABC News. “Holding this lease sale will only lead to more harmful oil spills, more toxic climate pollution, and more suffering for communities and wildlife along the Gulf Coast.”

Banner image: source (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Three Indigenous delegates talk COP26 and what’s missing in Canada’s climate efforts

Three Indigenous delegates talk COP26 and what’s missing in Canada’s climate efforts

Editor’s note: You don’t have to be indigenous to love the land you live on but it certainly gives moral authority. And in the fight against settler colonialism gives a much greater legitimate claim to virtue. They don’t even follow their own rules. Broken Treaties.

This story first appeared in The Narwhal.

Indigenous Peoples bear the brunt of environmental inaction — and sometimes action. The Narwhal speaks to three women on what they hope to address at the UN climate change summit in Glasgow

Nuskmata wants to combat myths about mining in Canada.

This is one of her goals at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow.

Nuskmata, mining spokesperson for Nuxalk Nation, spoke to The Narwhal from her home in British Columbia prior to leaving for the summit, also known as the 26th annual meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

She said she wants to centre solutions around Indigenous governance and emphasize how Indigenous Peoples are bearing the burden of climate policies, even well-intentioned ones like switching to electrification and renewable energy — that still requires mining precious metals, she said.

“You can’t be sacrificing Indigenous Peoples and clean water in order to get solar panels,” she said.

“It’s not just swapping out oil and gas. It’s about changing the system so that it’s sustainable for everybody.”

Nuskmata is one of many Indigenous delegates at COP26 determined to pursue Indigenous solutions, along with debunking myths and adding context to Canada’s global commitments.

She said she also hopes to deliver a message that mining “is not a green solution” to the climate crisis.

At COP26, the more than 100 countries in attendance will update their 2015 Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, intended to meet the urgent need to limit global warming to 1.5 C. This will require profound changes, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a sobering report in August which found Earth could exceed the 1.5 C warming limit by the early 2030s if we don’t curb emissions. To stay below 2 C warming, countries have to meet net-zero emissions around 2050, the report found.

Already in Scotland, nearly all countries have signed a deal committing to end deforestation by 2030, including Canada — though logging here is seen as renewable and therefore not affected by the deal. Delegates have pledged $1.7 billion in funding to Indigenous Peoples, recognizing the critical role they play in forest conservation.

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to cap and then cut emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector, repeating one of his 2021 campaign promises. But according to a new report from Environmental Defence Canada and Oil Change International, oil and gas producers only have vague commitments that rely on carbon-capture technology.

Some critics say COP26 is excluding Indigenous leaders from key parts of the international discussions. Regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Terry Teegee said in a public statement “there is a noticeable failure to include First Nations while negotiating the collective future of our planet internationally and locally.”

Read the full article at The Narwhal.

Banner image: Nuskmata is one of three Indigenous women The Narwhal spoke to about the message they’re bringing to COP26 in Glasgow.

Statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network in Support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples

Arrested Land Defenders Appear In Court Today; Gidimt’en Condemns Unreasonable And Punitive Conditions Of Release

This story first appeared in yintahaccess.com

Media contact: Jennifer Wickham, 778-210-0067, yintahaccess@gmail.com
Gidimt’en Checkpoint Media Coordinator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
NOVEMBER 22, 2021 

WET’SUWET’EN TERRITORY, SMITHERS, BC: Twenty people who were arrested in a two-day violent raid on Wet’suwet’en territory are appearing at BC Supreme Court in Prince George today at 11 am. Those arrested include Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ and Dinï ze’ Woos’s daughter Jocelyn Alec, as well as two journalists.

Those arrested are all facing charges of civil contempt for breaching the terms of a BC Supreme Court injunction granted to Coastal GasLink (CGL). CGL is seeking a number of conditions of release, including denying many arrestees access to a vast area of Wet’suwet’en territories. The proposed ‘exclusion zone’ is the whole Morice West Forest Service Road or any other areas accessed by the Morice Forest Service Road. Wet’suwet’en people (as determined by CGL) may be exempt from the exclusion zone for “cultural activities” (as defined by the RCMP), while being subjected to ‘culture-free zones’ around CGL work sites.

CGL is also asking Sleydo’ to provide documentation to “prove” she is Wet’suwet’en, and is seeking conditions that would bar her from returning to her home on Wet’suwet’en Yintah where her, her husband Cody Merriman (Haida nation, who was also arrested), and her three children live. CGL is also challenging Chief Woos’s daughter Jocelyn Alec’s status as a Wet’suwet’en person because she has Indian Act status with her mother’s First Nation. The Indian Act is patriarchal and does not determine identity or belonging to a community.

According to Jen Wickham, media coordinator of Gidimt’en Checkpoint: “Coastal GasLink’s proposed conditions of release are punitive, unreasonable and, in targeting Sleydo’ and Jocelyn, completely racist and sexist. Allowing a private corporation to determine two Indigenous womens’ identities and allowing this corporation to deny our inherent rights to be Wet’suwet’en on our territory is a very dangerous precedent. This is the colonial gendered violence that is the root of the crisis of MMIWG2S. Even though Coastal GasLink is trying to intimidate us through the colonial court system, we are Wet’suwet’en Strong. Under the governance of our Hereditary Chiefs, there will be no pipeline on our Yintah.”

In granting an injunction to Coastal GasLink, Justice Church recognized that the Wet’suwet’en are “posing significant constitutional questions” but said that “this is not the venue for that analysis.” However, the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa ruling clearly affirmed that Aboriginal title – the right to exclusively use and occupy land – has never been extinguished across 55,000 square kilometers of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territories.

States Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs: “Industry’s reliance on the racist and oppressive legal weapon of injunctions is a way to maintain the continued dispossession and criminalization of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples should not have to comply with industry and government decisions that deny our Indigenous rights. By dragging us through court and using injunctions against us, our Indigenous rights are being violated and are given less consideration than climate-destroying corporations. We are calling for the release of all Wet’suwet’en land defenders, and for BC and Canada to uphold Indigenous Title and Rights and institute a moratorium on fossil fuel expansion in the wake of clear and present climate catastrophe – including LNG which is not clean energy and is a non-renewable fossil fuel.”

For more information and developing story, please visit yintahaccess.com