Indigenous Sovereignty Fuels Pipeline Resistance: An Interview with Freda Huson and Toghestiy of the Unist’ot’en Camp

Amani Khalfan

When Canada’s fossil fuel industry launched an aggressive plan to turn the country into a major energy exporter and triple tar sands production by 2030, few of its supporters could have foreseen the Indigenous-led resistance that has now delayed or blocked almost every proposed mega-pipeline. Grassroots organizing in British Columbia has thus far frustrated efforts by industry and government to build pipelines to the Pacific coast. These pipelines, by facilitating export of the dirtiest fuels on the planet to international markets, would allow Canada to massively expand its tar sands and LNG (liquefied natural gas) industries.

The Unist’ot’en Camp, situated in Northwest BC, stands out as an uncompromising site of resistance to pipelines and to colonization. It is a community determined to protect sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory from several proposed tar sands and fracked gas pipelines. Established in 2009, the Camp is one of the continent’s longest-running active blockades. Supporters have built cabins, pithouses, and permaculture gardens directly on the GPS coordinates of several proposed pipelines. They enforce a Consent Protocol that determines who is allowed access to the area, and have evicted pipeline crews found working on Wet’suwet’en territory several times. Pipelines being blockaded include Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, Chevron’s Pacific Trails, and TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink and Prince Rupert projects.

Freda Huson and Toghestiy, Wet’suwet’en land defenders and representatives of the Camp, live permanently on the blockade. Freda (Unist’ot’en Clan) is spokesperson of the Camp, and Toghestiy is a hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan. Amani Khalfan interviewed them in October 2014.

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