Editor’s Note: Last November, an Ecuadorean appeals court ruled to return the land back to the ownership of Siekopai People. Since the early 20th century, the Siekopai have suffered due to rubber plantation, drawing of an international border through their land, oil exploration, deforestation for pastures and monocultures, Christian missionaries, among many others. A return of their land is a landmark judgment, and came after years of organizing. The following is a brief story that came out soon after the return of their land.
For a more historical background on the issue, check this story.
Land Returned to Siekopai People
By Brett Wilkins/Common Dreams
Amazon defenders [last November] cheered what one group called “an invaluable precedent for all Indigenous peoples fighting to recover their lands” after an Ecuadorean appeals court ruled in favor of the Siekopai Nation’s ownership claim over its ancestral homeland.
The November 24 decision by a three-judge panel of the Sucumbios Provincial Court of Justice gives Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment 45 days to hand over title to more than 104,000 acres of land along the country’s border with Peru.
“Today is a great day for our nation,” Siokepai Nation President Elias Piyahuaje said following the ruling. “Until the end of time, this land will be ours.”
The Siekopai—who call their homeland Pë’këya—were forcibly displaced from the region, one of the most biodiverse on the planet, in 1941 during the first of three border wars between Peru and Ecuador. They were then prevented from returning home as the Ecuadorean government unilaterally claimed ownership of Pë’këya.
The ruling marks the first time that an Ecuadorean court has ordered the return of land stolen from Indigenous people.
Amazon Frontlines—a San Francisco-based advocacy group that helped the Siekopai with their case—explained:
With a population of barely 800 in Ecuador and 1,200 in Peru, the Siekopai are on the brink of cultural and physical extinction. On both sides of the border, the Siekopai are currently waging legal battles to recover more than a half-million acres of land that were stolen from their ancestors. The Siekopai’s court victory recognizing Pë’këyamarks a major stepping stone in this binational struggle for the reunification of their ancestral territory. After centuries of violence, racism, and conquest by colonizing missions, rubber corporations, and governments, the court’s recognition of the Siekopai as the owners of Pë’këya is an indispensable step towards restoring justice and guaranteeing their collective survival and the continuity of their culture.
“For over 80 years, we have been fighting to get our land back,” Piyahuaje said. “Despite all the evidence regarding our land title claim—even historians testified that our ancestors dwelled in the area since the time of conquest—the Ecuadorian government failed to uphold our land rights time and time again.”
“We are fighting for the preservation of our culture on this planet. Without this territory, we cannot exist as Siekopai people,” he added.
Amazon Frontlines attorney Maria Espinosa said that “this victory has been decades in the making, it has been a very long struggle against the government.”
“Now, finally, the Siekopai’s dream of recovering their ancestral territory has been achieved,” Espinosa added. “This groundbreaking precedent paves the way for other Indigenous communities who dream of recovering their territories within protected areas.”
Editor’s Note: This is an update to a story that we published about the proposed copper mining in Porcupine Mountains. Michigan Strategic Fund is considering a grant for the Copperwood project – a project that will destroy the natural habitat in the Porcupine Mountains. This is an urgent call for action, you can find the original piece here.
URGENT: Michigan considering $50M grant for Copperwood
We are writing today with an urgent action request that needs to be completed as soon as possible. If you care about the health of Lake Superior and about the wilderness quality of the North Country Trail and Porcupine Mountains State Park, now is the time to fight for it.
An article released on January 30th reports that the Michigan Strategic Fund is currently considering a $50 million grant for the Copperwood project. This money would more than double Highland Copper’s bank account, but more importantly, a State endorsement would provide a massive boost in momentum and be used as leverage for future funds from grants, investors, and loans. To quote Highland Copper’s CEO Barry O’Shea: “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of how our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.”
Fortunately, a few of the MSF board members have expressed doubts regarding the necessity and wisdom of the grant, and the decision has been deferred to subcommittee for expedited consideration. We don’t know the timeframe in which a decision will be made, which is why it is crucial we act NOW.
We are asking you to write a message to the Michigan Strategic Fund board members who are deliberating over this grant as we speak. Their emails are provided below. We have already sent them a thorough elaboration on all our key arguments, so you only need to follow up with a few short paragraphs or even a few sentences. Write about whatever points resonate personally with you, but keep in mind, these are businesspeople who are interested mainly in the soundness of their investment.
Here are a few points to inspire your pen:
- Are they aware of this petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing Copperwood’s development? 11,000 is more than the populations of the closest three towns to the Mine combined (Wakefield, Bessemer, and Ironwood). Contrary to what they have been told, social license for this project is far from universal.
- The board members are likely not familiar with this area— remind them that this is not “the middle of nowhere”: the juncture of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, the North Country Trail, and Lake Superior is one of the most spectacular outdoor recreation areas in the country.
- Outdoor recreation contributes over $10 billion to Michigan’s economy annually; mining, around $1 billion. An operating mine would disrupt this thriving outdoor recreation area with noise pollution, light pollution, subterranean blasting, and heavy industrial traffic.
- Copperwood would be the closest sulfide mine to Lake Superior in history. Copper sulfide mines always contaminate and tailings dams are far from invincible.
- Inform them that, despite what they may have been told, copper is NOT a critical mineral and therefore there is no urgent need to fund this project.
Specific Economic Arguments
- Highland Copper is a foreign company, largely funded by foreign investors;
- The copper will be transported to Canada for processing, meaning a great many of the highest-paying jobs will go to foreigners. See the 2023 Feasibility Study:
P. 1.18 states concentrate to be shipped by a trans-load facility in Champion, MI to have access to Canadian National Railway networks (CN).
P. 19.2.1 discusses the need for downstream refining and smelting: “Several smelters could receive concentrate with the nearby candidates being the Horne smelter located in Noranda, Quebec or the copper smelter in Sudbury, Ontario. Other alternatives include seaborne export to Asia or Europe.”
- If this project is such a slam dunk, why haven’t they been able to procure funding after over a decade of scrambling?
- And why did their CEO step down just a few months ago?
- This study on the economic impact of mining shows that only 25% of mines lead to long-term economic benefit for communities, with half of those coming from before 1982, and most of those being new coal strip mines out West; in other words, it is an exceedingly small fraction of mines which will lead to meaningful economic revitalization.
- The study specifically cites the issue of “flickering“— the tendency for metal mines to close and re-open, again and again, as the price of a mineral fluctuates above and below the cost of operation; this creates much uncertainty in the lives of workers. Flickering is what has defined Copperwood’s entire nonexistence thus far: the flickering of funding, the flickering of proposed start-up dates, the flickering of CEOs. Highland Copper has stated again and again that, in addition to awaiting the necessary capital, they are awaiting a surge in the price of copper to make the project viable— Great… but what happens if the price plunges after the mine begins operation?
- This is a big chunk of change for a project that will only last 11 years;
- Since HC’s market cap is only $43 million — well short of the $390 million in startup capital required — MSF would be investing in a company that likely will be taken over by a larger partner at some point before the mine is up and running;
- Interim CEO Barry O’Shea said, “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of (how) our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.”
In other words, he has stated explicitly that they want to use an official State endorsement as leverage to win over more outside equity investors and bank loans— a pretty suspect use of Michigan taxpayer money, don’t you think?
- Finally, Highland Copper no doubt touted their “resolutions of support” gathered from area townhalls. Keep in mind, those resolutions were agreed upon by no more than two or three dozen people. Meanwhile, there is a petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing the Mine.
Now, without further ado, the details of the action:
- Firstly, please submit your short message via this online form (allows for limited length )
- Secondly, send that same message, or a longer version, to the e-mail addresses below— you may copy and paste the entire list directly into the CC: field of a new email. These addresses comprise ALL the Michigan Strategic Fund board members, plus a few more of special relevance:
You can also call the office of Quentin L. Messer, Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund:
Again, this is our most important action to date, and the clock is ticking!
Thank you for your help, everyone! Remember, ProtectThePorkies is not an organization, but a movement, comprised of anyone who feels a connection to this area and a desire to fight for its wellbeing! Take care!
For Immediate Release
On Tuesday, December 5th, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm, following a federal judge’s dismissal of their latest lawsuit, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) will hold a press conference on their court cases against the Thacker Pass lithium mine.
Members of the media are invited to attend the press conference, which will be held at RSIC’s Multipurpose Room, 34 Reservation Road, Building A, Reno, NV. The press conference will also be available by zoom and will be live streaming on the RSIC Facebook page.
Speakers will include Chairman Arlan Melendez, who has led the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for 32 years and is poised to retire at the end of this year; Michon Eben, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for RSIC; and Will Falk, one of the attorneys who has represented the tribe in the Thacker Pass court cases.
“We invite you to join us, as we continue our efforts to protect our sacred and culturally important site; considering it’s being destroyed right now,” said Chairman Melendez. Melendez is a nationally-respected Tribal leader and Vietnam war veteran who guided the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony through previous mining controversies, advocated for Tribal land protection and consultation rights, and helped coordinate the Tribe’s Thacker Pass strategy.
For two and a half years, Native American Tribes including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony have been speaking out about the cultural importance of Thacker Pass, a remote mountainside in northern Nevada which Lithium Nevada Corporation plans to turn into a massive open-pit lithium mine to supply batteries for General Motors’ electric vehicles.
Thacker Pass is known as “Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language, and is home to sacred sites, harvesting and hunting grounds, ceremonial areas, and the locations of two massacres of Paiute children, women and men.
On November 9th, Northern District of Nevada Chief Judge Miranda Du dismissed a second lawsuit filed in February of this year by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for allowing the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine to destroy sacred sites in Thacker Pass without concluding tribal consultation. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony was joined by the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe , and Burns Paiute Tribe in the suit.
“We are very disappointed that the court is allowing Lithium Nevada to destroy the site of an 1865 massacre of Paiute peoples and a whole Traditional Cultural District before the Bureau of Land Management finished consulting with tribes about ways to avoid or mitigate harm to these sites,” says Will Falk. “While climate change is a very real, existential threat, if government agencies are allowed to rush through permitting processes to fast-track destructing mining projects like the one at Thacker Pass, more of the natural world and more Native American culture will be destroyed. Despite this project being billed as ‘green,’ it perpetrates the same harm to Native peoples that mines always have.”
Thacker Pass is located in northern Nevada near the Oregon border, where Lithium Nevada Corporation is in the first phase of building a $2 billion open-pit lithium mine which would be the largest of its kind in North America. The lithium is mainly destined for General Motors Corporation’s electric car batteries, which the corporation claims is “green.” Mine opponents call this greenwashing and have stated that “it’s not green to blow up a mountain.”
Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming. The Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass as part of the president’s climate policy.
Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. They say that electric cars are harmful to the planet and a different approach is needed to address the climate crisis.
The lithium produced at Thacker Pass would end up in electric vehicles produced by General Motors including the electric version of the Hummer, a $110,000, >9,000 pound behemoth that produces more carbon dioxide pollution than an average gasoline-fueled sedan.
“Global warming is a serious problem and we cannot continue burning fossil fuels, but destroying mountains for lithium is just as bad as destroying mountains for coal,” says Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass and author of the book Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It. “You can’t blow up a mountain and call it green.”
To request the zoom link or to learn more about the RSIC community, culture, departments, economic developments, business opportunities and services, contact Bethany Sam, Public Relations Officer.
Protect Thacker Pass and several named defendants are fighting a lawsuit filed against them by Lithium Nevada Corporation. We are seeking monetary donations to their legal defense fund. You can donate via credit or debit card, PayPal (please include a note that your donation is for Thacker Pass legal defense), or by check.
Image by Max Wilbert of the landscape at Thacker Pass before mining construction began.
Editor’s Note: We bring to you a combination of two posts. The first is about a mass arrest of activists during climate protests on September 18. The protests were part of a global coordinated climate action. The second is about the new permits issued in the US for offshore oil drilling. For a president who ran his election on not allowing any more drillings, the move is a shift from his electoral promises. Though reflecting a lack of integrity, it still does not come as a surprise. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have shown, time and again, to favor corporations over nature, people, justice and freedom. This crackdown on protestors and permission for new drilling projects are just a reflection of that. As much as we oppose fossil fuels and oil drilling, DGR does not believe a renewable transition to be a solution to it. And calling a climate emergency to pursue that purpose would be folly.
114 Climate Defenders Arrested While Blocking Entry to NY Federal Reserve
By Brett Wilkins/Common Dreams
A day after tens of thousands of climate activists marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side demanding an end to oil, gas, and coal production, thousands more demonstrators hit the streets of Lower Manhattan Monday, where more than 100 people were arrested while surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to protest fossil fuel financing.
Protesters chanted slogans like “No oil, no gas, fossil fuels can kiss my ass” and “We need clean air, not another billionaire” as they marched from Zuccotti Park—ground zero of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement—to pre-selected sites in the Financial District. Witnesses said many of the activists attempted to reach the New York Stock Exchange but were blocked by police.
“We’re here to wake up the regulators who are asleep at the wheel as they continue to let Wall Street lead us into ANOTHER financial crash with their fossil fuel financing,” the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition explained on social media.
Protests against 300-mile-long oil pipeline through the Appalachians
Local and national media reported New York Police Department (NYPD) officers arrested 114 protesters and charged them with civil disobedience Monday after they blocked entrances to the Fed building. Most of those arrested were expected to be booked and released.
“I’m being arrested for exercising my First Amendment right to protest because Joe Manchin is putting a 300-mile-long pipeline through my home state of West Virginia and President [Joe] Biden allowed him to do it for nothing in return,” explained Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught on social media, referring to the right-wing Democratic senator and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
As she was led away by an NYPD officer, a tearful Haught said Biden “sold us out.”
“He promised to end drilling on federal lands, and he’s selling out Appalachia’s future for profit,” she added.
The demand is: declare a climate emergency
Responding to the “block-long” line of arrestees, Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”
Alicé Nascimento of New York Communities for Change told WABC that the protests—which are part of Climate Week and are timed to coincide with this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit—are “our last resort.”
“We’re bringing the crisis to their doorstep and this is what it looks like,” said Nascimento.
As they have at similar demonstrations, protesters called on Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. Some had a message for the president and his administration.
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” 17-year-old Brooklynite Emma Buretta of the youth-led protest group Fridays for Future told WABC. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
‘Gross Denial of Reality’: Biden Infuriates With Approval of More Offshore Drilling
By Julia Conley/Common Dreams
Rejecting the corporate media’s narrative that U.S. President Joe Biden’s newly-released offshore drilling plan includes the “fewest-ever” drilling leases, dozens of climate action and marine conservation groups on Friday said the president had “missed an easy opportunity to do the right thing” and follow through on his campaign promise to end all lease sales for oil and gas extraction in the nation’s waters.
The U.S. Interior Department announced Friday its five-year plan for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, including three new areas in the Gulf of Mexico where fossil fuel companies will be permitted to drill.
Government won’t reach it’s climate goals whith new drilling leases
Biden promised “no new oil drilling, period” as a presidential candidate, but he announced the plan six months after the administration’s approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska incensed climate advocates.
The industries have already bought 9,000 drilling leases – to which the new leases will be added. This is “incompatible with reaching President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by 50-52% by 2030,” said the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition, citing the findings of Biden’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Office of Atmospheric Protection earlier this year.
Texan citizens suffer under pollution in the Gulf region
While the final plan scales back from the eleven sales that were originally proposed, said the coalition, “the plan is a step backwards from the climate goals the administration has set and for environmental justice communities across the Gulf South, who are already experiencing the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel extraction across the region.”
The coalition includes the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which has called attention to the risks posed to public health in the Gulf region by continued fossil fuel extraction.
“Folks in Port Arthur, Texas die daily from cancer, respiratory, heart, and kidney disease from the very pollution that would come from more leases and drilling,” said John Beard, the founder, president, and executive director of the group. “If Biden is to truly be the environmental president, he should stop any further leasing and all forms of the petrochemical build-out, call for a climate emergency, and jumpstart the transition to clean green, renewable energy, and lift the toxic pollution from overburdened communities.”
Our fossil fuel-lifestyle incompatible with the survival of the earth
Kendall Dix, national policy director of Taproot Earth, dismissed political think tanks that applauded the “historically few lease sales” on Friday.
“The earth does not recognize political ‘victories,'” said Dix, pointing to an intrusion of saltwater in South Louisiana’s drinking water in recent weeks, which has been exacerbated by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
“As the head of the United Nations [António Guterres] has said, continued fossils fuel development is incompatible with human survival,” he added. “We need to transition to justly sourced renewable energy that’s democratically managed and accountable to frontline communities as quickly as possible.”
Biden’s drilling plans break his campaign promises
Along with groups in the Gulf region, national organizations on Friday condemned a plan that they said blatantly ignores the repeated warnings of international energy experts and the world’s top climate scientists who say no new fossil fuel expansion is compatible with a pathway to limiting planetary heating to 1.5°C.
“Sacrificing millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction when scientists are clear that we must end fossil fuel expansion immediately is a gross denial of reality by Joe Biden in the face of climate catastrophe,” said Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International. “Doubling down on oil drilling is a direct violation of President Biden’s prior commitments and continues a concerning trend.”
Rees noted that 75,000 people marched in New York City last week to demand that Biden declare a climate emergency and end support for any new fossil fuel extraction projects.
Protesters fear the destruction of land based communities and wildlife
“End Fossil Fuels is pretty clear,” said Rees, referring to campaigners’ rallying cry. “Not ‘hold slightly fewer lease sales,’ not ‘talk about climate action’—End. Fossil. Fuels.”
Despite Biden’s campaign promises, Rees noted, the U.S. is currently “on track to expand fossil fuel production more than any other country by 2050.”
“I feel disgusted and incredibly let down by Biden’s offshore oil drilling plan. It piles more harm on already-struggling ecosystems, endangered species and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, another member of the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition. “We need Biden to commit to a fossil fuel phaseout, but actions like this condemn us to oil spills, climate disasters, and decades of toxic harm to communities and wildlife.”
Inflation Reduction Act serves industrial extension
The lease sales, said Sarah Winter Whelan of the Healthy Ocean Coalition, also represent a missed opportunity by the administration to treat the world’s oceans “as a climate solution, not a source for further climate disaster.”
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by the White House last year, the government is required to offer at least 60 million acres of offshore gas and oil drilling leases before developing new wind power projects of similar scope.
“A single new lease sale for offshore oil and gas exploration is one too many,” said Whelan. “Communities around the country are already dealing with exacerbating impacts from climate disruption caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. Any increase in our dependence on fossil fuels just bakes in greater impacts to humanity.”
Gulf communities, added Beard, “refuse to be sacrificed” for fossil fuel profits.
“We say enough is enough,” he said.
The following is a press release by Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) about a protest action against seabed quarrying in Manila Bay. DGR Asia Pacific is also a collaborator of the protest.
Alyansa Tigil Mina together with Deep Green Resistance and Local Autonomous Network trooped to the Senate during the joint hearing on seabed quarrying today for a peaceful protest action dubbed “Food Not Quarry” as they asked the Senate to urge President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. to issue an Executive Order suspending all Manila Bay reclamation projects.
ATM submitted its Position Paper on Seabed Quarrying during the joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change and the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement.
“ATM respectfully calls on the distinguished members of the Philippine Senate to urge President Marcos Jr. to issue an executive order formalizing his August 9 announcement that reclamation projects in Manila Bay are suspended,” said the group in their position paper.
“Despite President Marcos’ announcement suspending the Manila Bay reclamation projects, we still observe an increase in sand mining, river dredging and seabed quarrying in Cagayan, Zambales, Bataan, and Cavite. These activities appear to provide filling materials for Manila Bay reclamation projects,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.
ATM’s position paper further notes that interviews with Cavite fishing communities revealed: the absence or lack of consultations before seabed quarrying activities were permitted; frequent incidents of dredging ships damaging fishing nets; and, sharp decline in fish catch since the dredging started.
The group called for the inclusion of people’s organizations, coastal communities, and civil society groups in the on-going cumulative assessment by the DENR.
“We also call on the Senate to hold accountable concerned government officials and private actors for the environmental damage and human rights violations caused by the seabed quarrying projects,” Garganera said.
“We likewise demand the rehabilitation of marine resources and compensation of coastal families whose rights and livelihood were adversely affected.”
Outside the Senate building, the protestors demanded the “eventual halt or cancellation of seabed quarrying projects that destroy fishing grounds and municipal waters, and bring about hunger and poverty to nearby communities.”
“Our direct action aims to surface the discontent surrounding seabed quarrying in San Nicholas Shoal Cavite as well as other areas.
We would also like to bring attention to the need for sustainable projects that ensure food security, especially in the midst of the climate crisis,” said Garganera.
Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano resurfaced
Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano (two activists abducted on September 2) have resurfaced. There are two versions of what happened to them.
In the official version (published September 16), the governmental law enforcement agencies claim that the two women were not abducted but left on their free will. They also claimed that they wanted to leave the group against Manila Bay Reclamation Project but were afraid to do so. As a result they fled from their homes and surrendered to the military. This news story highlights the official statement of the story.
The military presented the two women in a press conference on September 20. The aim of the press conference was to “debunk the abduction propaganda.” The two women were supposed to support the official version of the event. However, when Castro took the floor, she boldly claimed that she was abducted and forced to sign affidavit in military camps. Tamano supported Castro’s claim, after which the press conference was halted abruptly. Thankfully, the women were released hours after the conference in the presence of their families and human rights activists. A report of the press conference can be found here.
As a movement becomes more effective, the repression against it becomes stronger. The powerful will do anything in their power to destroy the movement. DGR commends the bravery of Castro and Tamano, for maintaining their courage and commitment to the natural world despite the hardships.
DGR is now selling a campaign shirt to support the operation cost of our ongoing campaign in the Philippines. We strongly opposed the Seabed Quarrying in San Nicolas Shoal in Cavite and Manila Bay Reclamation Projects which cause a wide ecological marine destruction and kill the livelihood of thousands of small fisherfolks around Manila Bay.
For every shirt that you purchase, DGR Asia Pacific will get P200 pesos that we will use in our activity and actions about Seabed Quarrying and Reclamations.
To order a shirt, please send us a message on our FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/dgrasiapacific/
Editor’s Note: One of the indicators of the success of any movement is the level of oppression by the powerful. The protests against logging at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, Canada, are an illustration of this. Fairy Creek is home to old-growth forests and has been targeted by forest product industries. Two years ago, activists joined hands with indigenous people to protest the logging. Now renewed efforts to protect the old-growth forests have been met with force by the RCMP. We thank Brenda Norrell for permission to repost this piece.
By Brenda Norrell/Censored News
Background to Fairy Creek
The last time the world was watching Fairy Creek, we witnessed the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Well over 1,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous forest defenders were arrested by the RCMP over months of tense standoffs in 2021 as activists sought to halt the logging of rare ancient trees.
The courts hammered that movement, with charges and bail conditions keeping many away, and the tussle in the trees went dormant for most of the last two years.
A new blockade, led by Indigenous youth and supported by non-Indigenous allies, has just been erected on a key bridge crossing an arterial logging road. The RCMP’s specialized tactical team that responds to land defense actions is present and surveilling the camp. A raid could come any day, and having media on the ground is of crucial importance to keep tabs on police and document the latest developments as land defenders seek to protect their unceded territories from old-growth logging.
Brandi Morin, an Indigenous journalist and author who has won a number of major awards, including a Canadian Digital Publishing Award and an Edward R. Murrow award in the U.S., is getting there to bring you the story from Fairy Creek’s new front lines.
She’ll be joined by World Press Photo of the Year-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken, reuniting a dream team that last joined forces to tell the story of First Nations communities fleeing wildfires in Alberta.
Latest crackdowns by RCMP
Three forest protectors were arrested on Tuesday [August 15] protecting the old-growth forests west of Victoria, as Canada continues to target Native people with police operatives protecting the interest of destructive industries. The police ops are British Columbia’s C-IRG, the Community Industry Response Group.
Mourning the invasion of the militarized police squad who arrested the forest defenders, who were his guests, Pacheedaht First Nation Elder Bill Jones said,
“We are at the end times of our great forests.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin, and photojournalist Amber Bracken, were there.
“The militarized RCMP of the C-IRG unit was also at the Savage Patch raid yesterday. At 6: am Amber and I saw some of them loading their gear to Lake Cowichan and then we raced out to the blockade, cause the raid was on its way.
“Turns out these guys hiked in behind the bridge where the old growth area is, tore the owl structure down and threw the wood in the river below. And then were guarding the bridge.”
Calling on the international community, Peace Brigades International Canada said,
“We draw the attention of the international community to the RCMP C-IRG raid against land defenders and allies protecting old-growth forest on Pacheedaht territory in Canada.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin said,
“RCMP C-IRG unit raided and dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old-growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders were arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch, and two settler supporters.”
Morin described the Canadian police raid on Tuesday,
“RCMP Sgt. Charney grabbed me after he and others threatened me with arrest when I refused to follow their media exclusion zones during the C-IRG Unit raid of the Savage Patch blockade against old growth logging. I did, however, inform them that I knew of my rights as a journalist and their exclusion zones are illegal.”
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in 2021 in its Fairy Creek decision:
“Exclusion zones, checkpoints, searches, and restrictions on media members clearly interfere with important liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression (including freedom of the press), and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
RCMP’s federal watchdog agency opened a probe into the operations of the C-IRG, a special unit that polices protests against resource extraction in British Columbia, CBC reports.
Abolish C-IRG said,
“Due to the increasing amount of indigenous-led anti-resource extraction movements in British Columbia, the Community-Industry Response Group was born. C-IRG is unique to British Columbia. They are militarized, have no budget limit, and the officers get paid handsomely to force pipelines, mines, dams, and logging through unceded indigenous territories, without consent. This is just another extension of the RCMP’s original task – to remove and separate people from the land and enforce colonial rule. They do not keep us safe, they protect capital.”
Statement from Elder Bill Jones on August 15, 2023
Today, we mourn once again as the militarized police squad raided our peaceful and Indigenous-led camp near Fairy Creek on Trunk Road 11. Again, these brave people were there on my unceded land as my guests, guests who had come to protect what’s left of the old growth forests. Once again, they put themselves on teh line after hearing that the NDP government had approved several cutblocks up that forestry road. Some of those cutblocks include old-growth forests.
We cannot keep cutting our great Mother Earth like this. Once these great forests are gone, they are gone forever. We set up these camps as a last resort. The government refused to change their forestry polices and Tal Cedar has stated in their forest “stewardship” plan that they will harvest every last old-growth tree available to them. The loss of every tree is an affront to my Indigenous rights, sovereignty and title, as it is to every Indigenous person. It is also a loss to all peoples as we are as once and we must learn to stand together as one.
I say again, the forest is my cathedral and my place of spiritual meditation. Government and industry cannot come to my lands and destroy my cathedral and expect us to do nothing.
I say thank you to all those forest defenders who built the amazing screech owl sculpture on the bridge and held the camp.
Thank you to all those who donated and supported the camp.
And I applaud the three brave forest defenders who were arrested and released today. I admire your courage in facing the relentless force of the dozens of CIRG officers who showed up to destroy your camp and arrest you.
I also remind government and industry that it is laughable to charge us with offenses and call us conspirators when we are at the end times of our great forests.
We will continue to do what we can to protect out great Mother Earth.
You can also listen to our latest Green Flame episode on Fairy Creek blockade with Joshua Wright:
Photo by DDP on Unsplash