Kamloops meetings open a new chapter in B.C. pipeline and oil tanker resistance

Texas pipeline company Kinder Morgan’s push to expand crude oil exports through B.C. could spark “a fight the magnitude of Standing Rock,” according to veterans of the Sioux-led blockades in North Dakota.

“It has the potential to be another battleground, just like Standing Rock has become an international spiritual monument for that liberation that we seek,” says Lakota lawyer and activist Chase Iron Eyes, who is in Kamloops for a panel discussion
tonight. “The same is possible here in beautiful B.C.”

Lakota lawyer and activist Chase Iron Eyes. Photo by Kimberly Powell.

Iron Eyes was arrested last week, along with 75 others, at a camp near a construction site for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Released Friday from Morton County Jail, he is speaking in Kamloops alongside Indigenous activists and scholars from across the continent, including Clayton Thomas-Muller, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Russ Diabo, Tia Oros Peters, Rueben George, Dr. Janice Billy and Kanahus Manuel.

This week’s meeting was the brainchild of the late Arthur Manuel, former chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and a tireless advocate for Indigenous self-determination. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel, is among those carrying on the struggle against Kinder Morgan in Secwepemc territory.

“We’ve been trying to bring people together for a long time,” she says. “It’s very exciting.”

Kanahus spent three months at Standing Rock and describes near-constant surveillance, snatch-and-grab arrests and what she calls “terror tactics” by militarized police and private security. She says First Nations should expect similar repression if construction on the new Kinder Morgan line goes ahead.

Kanahus Manuel with her father, the late Art Manuel, at Standing Rock. Photo via Facebook.

“We know the Trudeau government is expecting it, because they announced they are willing to bring in the military to protect this pipeline,” says Manuel.

Natural Resources minister Jim Carr told an Edmonton business audience in December that “defence forces” could play a role in Kinder Morgan protests.

“The resistance we’ve seen so far has been very palatable, very peaceful, fighting the system legally and politically,” Manuel says. “What we want to bring into the picture is direct action and different things that are going to elevate this into the international spotlight.”

Manuel points to Standing Rock as an example of how a grassroots movement can put international pressure on lawmakers to respect Indigenous rights. Attention from bodies like the United Nations, she says, can also protect the safety of demonstrators.

With legal declarations like the Treaty Alliance against Tar Sands Expansion uniting dozens of First Nations communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, organizers in the B.C. interior are hopeful Indigenous land defenders and water protectors from across the continent will rally to stop Kinder Morgan, if need be.

“This is not just a fight against a pipeline. This is about liberating the minds of our people,” says Manuel.

The public panel starts at 6 p.m. at Thompson Rivers University. Full details here.