The Karate Church, home to the Alternative Library, hosted a documentary and fundraiser event on Jan. 24.
The Alternative Library, an eclectic church-turned community library and event space, was home to a documentary night and fundraiser on Jan. 24 to support the Unist’ot’en Camp and Wet’suwet’en people as they fight to keep pipelines out of their territory.
The Unist’ot’en Camp is the location of an indigenous reoccupation of Wet’suwet’en land in British Columbia, according to the Unist’ot’en Camp website.
The event was organized by the Bellingham Unist’ot’en Solidarity and held at the Alternative Library in Bellingham.
Future Man, the library’s founder, said they heard the Bellingham Unist’ot’en Solidarity group was looking for a place to hold the event and offered the space to them.
“We’re just trying to be a space that can be used for activating people, in any shape and form,” Future Man said. “[We’re] trying to be supportive of communities that are being pushed out or oppressed.”
The fundraiser followed the dismantlement of the Gidumt’en checkpoint, located on Wet’suwet’en territory, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Jan. 7 and the bulldozing of an Unist’ot’en trapline on Jan. 22.
Both of these events, as well as footage of people living at the Unist’ot’en Camp and their resistance to the pipelines, were depicted in the series of documentaries shown at the Alternative Library.
According to the Unist’ot’en Camp website, Canadian federal and provincial governments, police force and Coastal GasLink/Transcanada are openly violating Wet’suwet’en, Canadian and international law.
Sakej, who is a Mi’kmaw man and activist who spoke at the event, said that as the fight for land has come together with a fight for the environment, non-indigenous people have been welcomed in.
“We are recognizing this fight belongs to all of us,” Sakej said. “What started as a fight against colonialism 500 years ago is becoming a fight to save the Earth now.”
Sakej also spoke on the impact colonialism has had on Canada and the United States.
“What was once our homelands are now your Starbucks, your Taco Bells, your malls, your churches, your schools, those were our lands,” Sakej said. “When I say our, I don’t mean a sense that this is over, it still belongs to indigenous people. But what I mean right now is it’s being contested, it’s being dominated by a colonial society who’s invaded and taken them over.” (17:30)
Sakej said that indigenous people have had their own governing systems stripped from them by force. An example of the imposed governing system replacing the traditional governing system can be seen as band elected chiefs have displaced hereditary chiefs, he said.
“They don’t have the authority from our people, they are in opposition to the actual traditional mandates of our people,” Sakej said. (20:15)
Sakej said Wet’suwet’en band elected chiefs have signed on with pipelines in Canada. Meanwhile, hereditary chiefs, who are the true voice of the Wet’suwet’en people, according to Sakej, have said no and are still fighting to protect the territory.(21 min)
The contestion of Wet’suwet’en land sparked series of solidarity actions worldwide, including a sign-drop in Bellingham on Jan. 8, according to Andrew Eckels, who has been to Wet’suwet’en territory and spoke at the event.
“The degree of solidarity actions that were directly stopping capital, shutting down ports, shutting down roads and bridges and putting a real serious economic consequence to an RCMP invasion was really quite historic,” Eckles said.
The documentaries were intermittent with short breaks. This gave time for reflection and for attendees to discuss questions, which were projected on the viewing screen, about what they felt, thought about and learned from the showings.
Engaging in dialogue, sharing information and building relationships was part of the inspiration for the event, according to Eckels. Changing people’s understanding of colonialism and educating to raise awareness and solidarity broadly are critical moving forward, he said.
The documentary night also featured further discussion with more people like Eckels who have been to camps where the indigenous reoccupation of Wet’suwet’en land is happening, according to the Unist’ot’en Camp website.
Gabby Brown, a member of Western’s Salish Sea club, said she attended the event because she wanted to support the Unist’ot’en people in light of what’s happening in Canada.
“We care about more than just what’s happening right around us,” Brown said. “Water knows no boundaries and everything that happens in Canada affects us, and everyone here wants to support in every way we can.”
Donations were taken at the door and a series of T-shirts, patches, zines and other items were available for purchase, with all funds going to Unist’ot’en land defenders.
“It’s awesome that we raised funds tonight,” Eckels said. “But, I think everyone here has the capacity to, you know, open up your home. Invite some of your friends over and show some movies [or] films and have a discussion and send funds up.”
For more information on the Unist’ot’en camp, visit http://unistoten.camp/.