Indigenous protesters set sights on Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Clearwater

By Adam Donnelly
July 13, 2018 - 1:58pm Updated: July 14, 2018 - 7:30am

CLEARWATER — What began as an Indigenous cultural event over the weekend has grown into an occupation of the North Thompson Provincial Park near Clearwater.

The Tiny House Warriors have blocked the entrance to the park and have started building structures along the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion route, claiming their land title supersedes any other claims on the parkland - a claim the Simpcw First Nation doesn’t agree with.

In an unincorporated area just outside of the town limits of Clearwater, the Kinder Morgan Pipeline crosses the Yellowhead Highway en route to the Blackpool Pump Station.  

A few kilometres closer to town, a group of indigenous protesters have occupied a provincial park which the pipeline runs through, hoping to disrupt any future construction along the route.

“[The pipeline] borders very closely to the North Thompson River,” Kanahus Manuel explained. “We’re standing on our inherent rights and title… as we reoccupy to re-establish this village site once again.”

The group occupying the park call themselves the Tiny House Warriors. They’re a group of Secwepemc activists who claim their mission “to stop the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory.” Their tactic? Building small, sustainable houses in the path of the pipeline - in this case, on the site of a settlement used by Secwepemc people for millennia.

“We’re building 10 tiny houses in the path of the pipeline,” Manuel told CFJC Today. “This is unceded, unsurrendered Secwepemc territory. We’re here reoccupying our traditional village site. There’s(sic) 37 pit house depressions down here, and remnants of our village. A very sacred place.”

The park lies in the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation. Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring said in a phone interview she was concerned with the tactics the protesters used to gain access to the park

“I can say that Simpcw is dismay that what had originally started out under the guise of a [traditional] tattoo and action event has morphed into an occupation protesting the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. They seem to be switching back between this [being] a cultural, spiritual event to ‘this is a protest’ and in my mind, we can’t have it both ways.”

Loring says she believes this type of political action is more damaging to the cause of indigenous rights and title and could have unintended consequences.

“This action, I feel, is doing more harm than good,” Loring said. “It’s creating animosity within our nation, it’s creating animosity between Natives and non-Natives alike. I’m really concerned about the backlash against our vulnerable - our children, our youth, our elders.”

According to the protestors, there have been some disgruntled locals, but for the most part, they say people in and around Clearwater have been supportive of their action.

“We’ve had local Clearwater residents come and deliver wood, come and deliver food,” Manuel said. “They’ve delivered moose meat, bear meat, Lynx meat and herbs and berries for us.”

But according to Chief Loring, the occupation of the park is contrary to the traditions of the Simpcw people.

“When we enter into someone else’s land, we come and say ‘this is what we’re going to be doing,” Loring said. “We ask permission… in a respectful manner. We follow those protocols, and the protocols have not been followed in this instance.”

A tweet from Kanahus Manuel (@KanahusFreedom) Thursday night shows an Eviction Order issued by the BC Provincial Parks Service. CFJC has reached out to the province for more information but hasn’t heard back from the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.

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