Filed under: Climate Change, Environment, Indigenous, Solidarity, Southeast
Report on solidarity action with the Wet’suwet’en in Charleston, West Virginia.
Charleston, WV — Early this morning, more than 100 water protectors shut down the TC Energy Headquarters in Charleston, WV. Several people locked their necks to one another, blockading the lobby so that business inside the building could not continue. Outside, the building’s flagpole was divested of its American flag, and a warrior flag symbolizing Indigenous power was raised in its stead. Banners on site read “SOLIDARITY WITH WET’SUWET’EN,” “YOU ARE ON STOLEN LAND,” and “JUSTICE FOR MMIW [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women].”
After demonstrators maintained the blockade for more than three hours, police escalated the peaceful situation to violence as they advanced aggressively without first issuing a dispersal order, shoving water protectors to the ground, including older people and a Native matriarch. Still, defenders held their ground for another hour. The protest eventually dispersed voluntarily, marching together in the road chanting “NO PIPELINES, NO OIL, THIS LAND IS NOT YOURS TO SPOIL”. No arrests were made.
The group is acting in solidarity with the Indigenous Wet’suwet’en people, who are defending their unceded land in so-called British Columbia, Canada, from the Coastal GasLink Pipeline and other unwanted, dangerous pipeline projects. The Coastal GasLink Pipeline is a project of TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada).
Mama Julz, Oglala Lakota and founder of the Mothers Against Meth Alliance, explained her decision to take action, saying, “My territory is experiencing a meth epidemic, and many missing and murdered relatives. All the drugs and sex trafficking come from man camps that TransCanada has brought to my territory. Wet’suwet’en has been experiencing that same violence for years. They have the Highway of Tears, where their missing and murdered relatives are stolen from. It all comes from the pipelines. It’s important to be in solidarity because we face violence from the same industry. Our ancestors traveled and always kept us connected with our indigenous relatives to the North. The waters connect us.”
On February 10, 2020, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), acting on behalf of TC Energy, invaded Unist’ot’en (a House of the Gilseyhu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation) territory and arrested Matriarchs in the middle of a ceremony as well as land defenders. A statement from Unist’ot’en on that day read, “Unist’ot’en condemns these violent, colonial arrests and stark violations of Wet’suwet’en law, Canadian law, and of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). […] We have governed ourselves sustainably since time immemorial.” Widespread protests in solidarity with Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en have broken out across Canada, targeting government offices, ports, and rail lines, and declaring “SHUT DOWN CANADA.”
TC Energy is the same company that operates the Columbia Gas pipeline and storage facility here in Appalachia. Indigenous people — including Monocan, Moneton, and Cherokee people — inhabited the hills and hollers of this region for thousands of years before white settlers arrived, bringing with them genocide and forced relocation. The fossil fuel industry and TC Energy in Appalachia today are a continuation of the legacy of colonization. Today, Indigenous people, Appalachian people, and all land defenders stand in solidarity to say WET’SUWET’EN STRONG. SHUT DOWN CANADA. SHUT DOWN TC ENERGY.
One Dine activist, who traveled from the Four Corners area to participate in the action, said, “I am here to be in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en folks, and to be in support of the sisters who are raising awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women. In Indigenous ways of life there are no borders, so anything that happens here on Turtle Island is happening to all our relatives. Just like the Wet’suwet’en are fighting man camps in so-called Canada, the reservation where I’m from faced fracking, and there were man camps there too. New Mexico has one of the highest rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women. This is what extracting, mining, drilling, and everything associated with those industries lead to.”
Today’s action is a response to Unist’ot’en’s call for solidarity with their struggle to defend their sovereign territory from the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Many of the water protectors at TC Energy’s office in Charleston, WV today are associated with the group Appalachians Against Pipelines, which has been actively fighting the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Appalachia for over 2 years.
Additional statements from anonymous people taking action today:
“I am here in solidarity with every missing Indigenous woman, with all of the earth and its peoples who have been pillaged and destroyed by the vicious and relentless systems of capitalist extraction and colonialism. I’m here because there is everything to lose — our means of survival and that of all other life on the planet, and because there has been so much loss. Because there is hope in the tiny rebellions. Unending solidarity with the Unist’ot’en fight, and the Wet’suwet’en people, now and forever.”
“The enclosure of land and extraction of its resources is an age old arm of settler colonial violence. I am here because colonialism is ongoing, because our lives and the lives of generations to come depend upon the liberation of the earth and all of its inhabitants. I am here because indigenous women are being disappeared, and that too is an arm of settler colonialism — the one that assaults the bodies of women, queer people, the vulnerable. We all need to fight together to win.”