After Thursday’s action blocking the intersection of highway 16 and highway 62, I felt inspired, empowered, and ready for more. It feels so good to do something in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their battle, to take a stand for what’s right, in support of all of life on planet Earth, rather than just sitting back and watching what I could see on Facebook. Getting out and connecting, gathering with others who want to do something and take a stand, is incredibly uplifting and encouraging. It reminds me that I’m not alone, we are all in this together. We are one.
Facebook has a role to play too, as a tool, and there are some amazing “word warriors” expressing their truth and supporting the cause through social media and other channels. I myself know this is part of what I can do to support, but it’s only part. Getting out and taking a physical stand is important too. Showing up, being another body, connecting with others who are standing up for life itself on this planet. Taking it beyond Facebook, out into the streets.
So when we received word that there was action planned for Saturday at noon down by the train tracks in New Hazelton, we packed up and went down to be part of it. Spearheaded by Chief Spookw, with other Gitxsan chiefs alongside him, a blockade was quickly set up on the CN Rail tracks in New Hazelton, all train traffic halted, in support of the Wet’suwet’en. To demand the withdrawal of RCMP and CGL from Wet’suwet’en territory.
I was one of the first ones there as people gathered down by the tracks. A couple trucks came loaded with pallets. Someone was getting a fire going nearby the tracks. Kids were playing in the snow. The sun was shining. The last train rolled by shortly after I arrived. There was a buzz of excitement as things took shape and people got into action. The cops showed up to see what was going on, and put in a call to the railroad letting them know there were people on the tracks, stop the trains. Someone brought a load of firewood, and people prepared to hunker down and be there a while.
A group of people went to work blocking the tracks with pallets. Setting them up in various obstructions over the two sets of tracks running through. Before long, someone had carried in a burn barrel and a fire was lit on the tracks. A small crowd gathered as more and more people arrived, and some of the local Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs donned their blankets to give a press release. Reporters, photographers and people with their smart phones were recording the event.
After the Chiefs spoke, several women with drums sang a song to the Earth, then anyone who had something to share was invited to speak and a number of people did. I heard some of this, but not all, as Little Miss began to stir (she’d been sleeping in her backpack up to this point) and protest, so I took her to the other fire to sit and nurse her.
It was just the beginning, the occupation continued, and still continues as of this writing. Folks gathered around the fires, a wall tent was set up for food, with a small stove and a cot for the night shift to catch some sleep. Little Miss and I hung out until sometime after 8pm, then headed home for the night with plans to come back the next morning.
Next morning, I checked Facebook to see messages about the CN police being on their way, people needed down at the tracks. I packed us up and got down there around 10am. No police had come, was it a tactic to see how many people could be mustered? News came that they planned to come the next morning – Monday – at 9am, with various officials and the RCMP to meet with the Chiefs. It was likely they would come with an injunction in hand to try and clear the tracks.
We hung out til it got dark on Sunday, and it was amazing to see all of the people coming by to show their support. Some hanging out for a few hours, some dropping by for a few minutes to share their stories, bring food or other donations, offering what support they could. Supporters arrived who had been at the Wet’suwet’en camps that were raided in the previous days, continuing to take a stand even after being removed from the camps.
For two days, I hung out on the train tracks with friends, new and old, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. With my four-month old daughter along for the ride. We are doing this for her future, afterall. The future of all the generations to come after us.
We dressed warm, hung out by the fire, and Little Miss charmed everyone with her smiles. It felt good to be there, a witness to this gathering of hearts coming together in support of our brothers and sisters, and all of humanity. Indigenous and settler allies, young and old, locals and supporters from other towns and nations. Over the course of the two days I was present, a wide variety of people rolled through there in support, some particularly amazing folks camping out all night, or showing up early in the morning.
I am so proud of the community I live in, and the amazing support I saw down there on the tracks. So many people stopping in to show their support in the form of food, firewood, water, or their presence – another body. Many expressed their gratitude, their appreciation, how good it felt to see this happening and to be a part of it. One friend expressed that it felt good to have something to do, some kind of action to take. Another person called it a sight for sore eyes. The general feeling was one of relief, celebration even, spirits high and people grateful to be able to support, to take some action in support of the cause.
Four days later, that blockade is still there, and there are other blockades happening of trains and ports and major intersections across so-called Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’en. Calling for the removal of RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory, and a true acknowledgment of their rights and title to their unceded land.
It was a powerful experience being there on the tracks, and I will go back as soon as I am finished a housesitting commitment I had made before this all went down. I am eager to get back, and know that even if that particular blockade is shut down by then, there will be another one to go and support somewhere else. It’s not the end, it’s only the beginning.
In the meantime, this housesitting retreat feels perfect to rest and rejuvenate and be ready to get back on the front lines for another stint. I’m here for the long haul, not just a short thrill, and burning myself out won’t get me very far. I am grateful for some space to process and integrate my experience, and feel renewed in my commitment to continue to take a stand for what’s right. I am also feeling called to put my writing and online skills to work for the cause, to share my experience and information with those who resonate and desire to know what’s going on and support in whatever way they can.
This is far from over. There is an uprising happening across this land, people all over standing up and saying, “No, this isn’t right. We want to do better, we want a better future for our children and their children.”
It’s not just about the Wet’suwet’en. They are just one example, one group, one indigenous nation standing up for their rights and their love of their people and the land they live on. They give us a specific cause to focus on, but we are standing up for so much more than just them. There are more, other groups, other struggles, around the world, and as we stand up, no matter which group we stand in solidarity with, we are taking a stand for the Earth, for humanity, for a future where all live in harmony with each other and with the land we live on.
We are saying: wait a minute here, I’m not okay with how things are going. I’m not okay with killing the earth and trampling over life to make a profit. I want something different.
No, it’s not over. The story will continue to unfold. We live in amazing times as the people are waking up, shaking off their slumber, shaking off their shackles, and taking a stand for LIFE!
UPDATE: the day after this post was written, the blockade was taken down, a decision by the Gitxsan Chiefs in good faith, with promises of meaningful talks with the federal and provincial government. As far as I know, those talks have yet to come to fruition, and as people continue to rise up across the land, I admit I am hoping that soon we’ll end up back on the tracks, doing our part to keep putting the pressure on until the Wet’suwet’en get what they are asking for: RCMP and CGL OFF their territory, and (only then!) nation to nation talks with Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of so-called Canada) and John Horgan (Premier of so-called British Columbia).
All Eyes on Wet’suwet’en! This isn’t over yet.