Hundreds gathered in Kelowna this weekend to show their support for the men and women of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who are trying to halt construction of a North Dakota oil pipeline.
“Our people are taking a stand throughout the world,” Westbank First Nation chief Roxanne Lindley said at the event held Sunday in Stuart Park.
“(This is happening) because of our relationships with one another, but more importantly our relationship with our Mother Earth …water is life for everyone. All living things. And I’m standing up here to ask you to keep taking action.”
Lindley told those gathered that the issues at play extend beyond North Dakota.
“Think about what is happening in this province. Think about what is happening with this country and what is happening in Standing Rock and with peaceful resistance,” she said, adding that the treatment of protestors, who have been jailed and tear gassed, is both unjust and criminal.
That comment resonated among many who attended the event.
UBC Okanagan student Ellen Campbell went to the rally because she said it’s crucial to stand with “First Nations land defenders.”
“From a legal perspective, any resource extraction and development on both ceded and unceded territories needs to have the free prior and informed consent of the First Nations peoples from whom those lands were stolen, in keeping with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,” she said.
Whether it is standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock Sioux territory, the Site C Damn on treaty 8 territory, the Ruddock Creek Mine in Secwepemc territory, or Marine Harvest’s Salmon Farms in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory, she said, consent is required.
While the event was a show of solidarity, a secondary driver was drumming up support for British Columbians headed to the front lines of the protest.
From sending money and winter supplies to posting on social media or going there were many calls to action.
Jody Leon, from the Splatsin Indian Band on her mother’s side, was one of the speakers who had recently returned to B.C. from North Dakota, and said she was going back shortly.
“I have been in some direct action on the front line,” she said.
“What’s happening there … everything comes from love. And what comes from love will heal this.”
Leon said that it’s incumbent on indigenous people to stand strong in protection of the environment, even if that means fighting with industry.
“We will be telling all pipelines, ‘no,’” she said.
That effort, she added, needs support.
Leon urged those gathered to head to the protest if they felt a calling and if they couldn’t to find a way to send supplies — particularly winter gear as temperatures can dip as low as -40 C.
“I myself am trying to organize to bring a bus down to standing rock. We want to bring 33 people down,” she said, saying that those interested could add her on Facebook if they wanted to.
The 1,770 kilometre, $3.7-billion (U.S.) Dakota Access pipeline would carry oil from just north of the Standing Rock Sioux’s land in North Dakota to Illinois, where it would hook up to an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The project is led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners through its Dakota Access subsidiary.
It was envisioned as a safer way to transport highly flammable oil extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada than on trains.
The Standing Rock Sioux reservation is one of six in the Dakotas that are all that remain of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which comprised all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River – including the Black Hills, which are considered sacred, according to the tribe’s website.