Freda Huson, who emerged over the past two years as one of the key figures opposing the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project, has now been recognized for her efforts with a Right Livelihood Award.
In a press release, the Right Livelihood board said Huson, a hereditary spokesperson for the Unistot’en House of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, is being honoured “for her fearless dedication to reclaiming her people’s culture and defending their land against disastrous pipeline projects.”
Huson’s efforts to preserve the territory for future generations began with a return to ancestral lands in 2010 when she moved into a log cabin on the banks of the Morice River very near to where the CGL pipeline is currently being laid.
Next came the Unistot’en Healing Centre, which began programming in 2016.
“The work I’ve been recognized for is teaching people our ways, which we are taught from a very young age: to take care of the land that sustains us,” Huson said in response to the award.
In 2019, the cabin and healing centre became a focal point of a larger encampment actively opposing and attempting to block Coastal GasLink’s construction efforts.
That year, standoffs between pipeline opponents and the police made national and international headlines and resulted in 14 arrests.
Charges were eventually dropped, but ultimately, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL a temporary injunction allowing them access to the worksite and giving police authority to enforce it.
Last year, similar efforts by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in response to the injunction to blockade access near the Unistot’en Camp erupted into nationwide protests including rail blockades that shut down major transportation routes across Canada.
The injunction became permanent last fall.
Last week, in advance of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, renewed efforts block access resulted in two more arrests.
The Right Livelihood Award was founded in 1980 by Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexküll, who wanted it to be given out alongside the Nobel Prizes in the same way the Nobel Economics Prize is not technically a Nobel Prize, but is administered by the Nobel Foundation. He was turned down by the Foundation and consequently, the Right Livelihood Awards have taken on a reputation for being an “alternative Nobel Prize.”
The Right Livelihood Award comes with a 1 million kronor (approximate CA$145,000) prize.
Three other laureates were also named this year:
Marthe Wandou (Cameroon) “for building a model of community-based child protection in the face of terrorist insurgency and gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region of Cameroon;”
Vladimir Slivyak (Russia) “for his defence of the environment and for helping to ignite grassroots opposition to the coal and nuclear industries in Russia;” and
Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (India) “for their innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India.”