Update: the day after the caravan departed from Unis'tot'en Camp, the land defenders evicted a crew of pipeline surveyors who helicoptered into a remote part of their territory. (July 22, 2014)
Training and supplying the resistance
Unis'tot'en Camp stands in the planned route for a cluster of oil and gas pipelines near Smithers BC, 18 hours drive north of Vancouver. It is more than a blockade and bigger than an indigenous uprising.
In the last four years, members of the Unis'tot'en Clan and their allies have built a traditional pithouse, a solar-powered log cabin, a permaculture garden, a smokehouse, and a bunkhouse. Camp spokesperson Freda Huson and Chief Toghestiy aim to make the camp completely self-sufficient, anticipating the collapse of the oil-based economy. They occupy the camp year-round.
The Caravan to Unis'tot'en Camp is building up the camp's ability to sustain itself. For the third year in a row, our convoy brought dozens of volunteers, tonnes of food and gear, and over three thousand dollars in cash donations. Great work!
A small group of volunteers in Victoria and Vancouver coordinates the caravan. The work includes fundraising, gathering supplies, and setting up ride-shares, plus orienting camp visitors, facilitating workshops and assisting Freda Huson and Chief Toghestiy, the camp leaders, when we are on the land.
Along with supplies and willing volunteers, we delivered:
- a full-sized woodstove for the new bunkhouse
- a laptop computer
- four hand-held radios
- ax heads and handles
- a powered grinding wheel
- a hand-held GPS loaded with state-of-the-art GIS maps of the government-approved pipeline route. (This involved about a hundred hours of work by a FAN volunteer.)
FAN also sponsored an indigenous youth delegation from Aawmjinaang in Ontario.
At the camp
Unis'tot'en Camp stands on the west side of the Morice River (Wedzin Kwah). The bridge over the river is blocked by hand-painted sheets of plywood declaring "No Access Without Consent," backed up by a locked chain gate and a truck parked at the far side. The bridge is guarded day and night and no one may enter without conducting a Free, Prior, Informed Consent protocol.
Once we were allowed to cross the bridge, participants spread out and pitched tents and hammocks in the forest. We came together for meals, workshops, and presentations from indigenous clans, local elders, warriors, and campaigners in an open-air arbor behind the log cabin.
Delegations of indigenous people led discussions about their own land reoccupations and campaigns of resistance. They listed dozens of ways for non-native people to support their work.
Around 200 people took part in the camp. The days were filled with an energizing sense of unity. For many, it was a life-changing experience to meet the land defenders and their allies.Going through the protocols and hearing first-hand about indigenous struggles awoke a fierce desire for justice.
A first-time participant writes:
“I've had many opportunities in recent years to attend some of the best training in theoretical concepts and workshops, but this action camp focused on that and something deeper.”
“I personally witnessed before my eyes people undergoing radical changes as they saw the material needs for a true resistance as more important than their ideological purity.”
The 2014 camp brought courage to hundreds who will carry that spirit back to their home communities and everywhere else they go.