Local event aids British Columbia tribe’s battle with pipeline companies

Donations from the event will be used to fund the Unist’ot’en Camp’s operational needs, as well as the construction of a Healing Centre. // Photo by Olivia Klein

By Olivia Klein

Community members and advocates for the Unist’ot’en indigenous tribe of British Columbia gathered at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship for the “Stop the Pipelines, Start the Music!” benefit dinner on the evening of Friday, May 11.

Freshman Annika Brinkley is one of these advocates and a member of Students for the Salish Sea.

In Canada, there’s a significant amount of  unseated territory belonging to indigenous peoples, which isn’t legally given to them, Brinkley said. Multiple pipelines would go straight through their territory, and if they leak, it could destroy the water supply they depend on, as well as nearby marine wildlife.

“We’re co-hosting this event, and it’s a fundraiser for Unist’ot’en pipeline resistance camp,” Brinkley said.

According to the event’s Facebook page, proceeds from the event’s auction, as well as donations gathered, will contribute toward helping the Unist’ot’en camp with its operational needs, as well as with the construction of the Healing Centre.

According to the Unist’ot’en Camp’s website, the Healing Centre will offer traditional teachings and land-based wellness practices of the tribe’s ancestors.

Freda Huson, a Unist’ot’en spokesperson, came down from British Columbia to speak at the event about the importance of the tribe’s Healing Centre.

The event is a fundraiser for the Unist’ot’en pipeline resistance camp. // Photo by Olivia Klein

“We’re hoping to bring healing to all our nation,” Huson said. “Holistic healing in [the] spiritual, mental [and] cultural way of our people.”

Daniel Patrick, an educator and community advocate for the Unist’ot’en people, is one of the many individuals who has put extensive time and effort into the camp and Healing Centre.

“I have been [to the Unist’ot’en camp] three times in the last two years,” Patrick said. “I have put in approximately 40 days of  volunteering. It’s a very beautiful, special place and we’re fighting to make sure that their land remains their land.”

According to Patrick, although pipeline companies look at this land and see open space which they can negotiate with the government to receive permits, it’s the Unist’ot’en people who actually hold rights to this territory.

“So it’s kind of a classic fight between indigenous people for their land and their territory, and the integrity of their ecosystem and the forces of government,” Patrick said. “There’s money in petroleum, and if you have enough money, then law bends to suit you.”

Brinkley said the fight is bigger than just the tribe against the pipeline companies.

“It’s a human rights issue, and also just a human health issue,” Brinkley said. “It really affects all of us.”

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