Rallying with signs, chants and sage, Terrace residents trudged through the fresh, heavily snow-covered Millennium Trail last Friday to show support with a nation taking over headlines this month.
On Jan. 10 at noon, approximately 25 people marched along Highway 16 in a response to a call to show solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en as Coastal GasLink (CGL) contractors attempted pipeline construction and tensions rise.
“The weather obviously was a bit of an issue but any day is a good day to stand up for Indigenous rights… I think everybody here has really good intentions and everybody came out with their hearts,” says Hilary Lightening, Terrace resident and rally organizer, who is of Gitxsan heritage.
“I feel like we’re all in this together. We’re a small group but we’re still mighty in our size.”
CGL plans to build a pipeline from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat and has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the planned 670-kilometre route, but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the project does not have their consent.
Earlier last week, the Wet’suwet’en called for an international week of solidarity from “Indigenous and non-indigenous communities who uphold Indigenous sovereignty and recognize the urgency of stopping resources extraction projects that threaten the lives of future generations.”
Following last year’s arrest of 14 people, tension is still high at a Wet’suwet’en checkpoint near Houston, where protesters have reportedly placed obstacles like fallen trees, stacks of tires covered by tarps and even fuel-soaked rags to bar access to crews and police.
Lightening says the marchers brought attention to how the matter is being handled by authorities.
“We’re taking a stand for their Indigenous sovereignty and land rights against CGL and are facing the threat of forced removal, again, from their territories by the RCMP,” explains Lightening.
“Right now, the threat is very real that the RCMP will choose to use lethal force and that is something that absolutely terrifies us.”
At the rally, a Terrace resident who asks to be referred to as George, says these past few weeks have been stressful as he stays connected to friends who are present on the frontline of the CGL protest.
“It’s been very emotional, very stressful… It’s infuriating,” he says. “The energy there is very negative… [when I was there], I almost got ran over by one of the workers and the police accused me of spinning a knife around trying to stab around but all I had was a pen and trying to write down the license plate.
“It goes to show how much they’re reaching to portray those water protectors and land protectors in a negative light, they will create scenarios out of thin air and push it on us.”
George says he’s also marching to remind people that the pipeline affects the environment in the region, beyond Wet’suwet’en territory. He adds many First Nations people are known to struggle financially and it’s unfair to sign contracts with a hefty cheque.
“A lot of people, Native people are struggling very hard… it’s not just a one-off, it’s the whole community. So I think to throw money at people’s faces is pretty hard to deny but they’re not looking at the long term,” he says.
“I’m hoping they’ll realize the salmon runs are struggling more than they think and they’re going to realize that some pipeline money is not going to bring any fish back.”
Although the rally lasted for only an hour in the frigid cold, Lightening says it was great to see everyone come together, both First Nations and non-First Nations residents, to stand up for what they believe in.
“I’m just here raising up and standing with the Wet’suweten as their neighbors and friends,” she says. “I’m just a concerned citizen, who wants more for my children and my children’s children.”
The Terrace Standard has reached out to the RCMP for comment.