Bella Coola women’s team wore shirts in support of the Wet’suwet’en who are protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament

Committee vice-president says the basketball tournament in Prince Rupert shouldn’t be about politics

The 60th All Native Basketball Tournament opening ceremonies wasn’t without controversy.

Entire teams dressed in T-shirts with “Wet’suwet’en Strong” printed on the front and “Unceded” on the back. Some players held signs reading “We stand with Wet’suwet’en” as they paraded through the court.

Escalating opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory lead to RCMP arrests and rallies across the country. Fourteen people were arrested on Jan. 7 after attempting to block a forest service road needed by Coastal GasLink workers in the pre-construction process.

The 670-kilometre pipeline is intended to move natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, where the LNG Canada facility is being built.

On Feb. 10, more than 50 Indigenous teams from across B.C., to Hydaburg, Alaska, travelled to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament. More than 100 Lax Kw’alaams members opened the ceremonies. Dancers wore carved cedar masks, button blankets, tunics and dresses. They played drums, blew into conch shells, and used mussel shells as rattlers.

READ/WATCH MORE: Lax Kw’alaams prepare to lead All Native opening ceremonies

As Lax Kw’alaams continued to sing, the teams walked in one by one, many wearing the same T-shirt in support of the We’suwet’en protest. Once all the teams filed in the organizers, Indigenous leaders and politicians took their turn to speak in the centre of the court.

First up was Eva Spencer, the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee.

“I feel sad for the players right now because right now you’re not focused,” Spencer said. “Don’t bring politics into this.”

In 2017, the committee banned all anti-LNG statements, either on T-shirts or banners, from the tournament. The previous year, players wore blue “No LNG” T-Shirts as they walked into the court for the opening ceremonies. Players, coaches and managers wearing any anti-LNG or political statements were asked to either remove the items or remove themselves from the tournament.

Despite the ban, some players and supporters stood outside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and handed out pink “No LNG” T-shirts.

Following Spencer’s speech, Murray Smith, Algmxaa, one of the house leaders in the Gitwilgyoots Tribe, took centre stage with Chief Yahaan, Donald Wesley, who was the leader in the protest and court battle against Pacifc Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island.

Smith applauded the players who were making a political statement with the signs and the banners. At the end of his speech he said: “We are on unceded territory as well. I love seeing that on your T-shirts as well, unceded. Don’t forget, you are in control.” Behind him, Lax Kw’alaams members beat their drums and spectators cheered.

Teams left the court singing the Friendship Song with Lax Kw’alaams performers.

The tournament will be held in Prince Rupert from Feb. 10 until Feb. 16.

READ MORE: B.C. government, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announce reconciliation process

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

All Native Basketball Tournament

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Eva Spencer, vice chairman of the All Native Basketball Tournament, tells the players at the opening ceremonies that the tournament shouldn’t be about politics. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

In the first publication of this story “Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament opening ceremonies” we wrote in error that it was Eva Clayton who spoke first as the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee. We apologize for this error to any one this may have offended, as it was Eva Spencer. This has since been corrected in both print and online editions.

Just Posted

(DiStefano Jaud Architecture)
Kelowna city staff wave down proposed Byrns Road development

Developer proposes gas station, car wash, liquor store, commercial buildings, in agricultural area

Elijah Beauregard, 16, was stabbed in downtown Kelowna on June 27, 2019. He died of his wounds three days later in hospital. His family is raising money to put a memorial bench at his favourite skatepark in Penticton.
Family of teen stabbed to death in Kelowna close to getting Christmas wish

A memorial bench in Penticton for Elijah Beauregard is close to meeting its funding goal

Mara Lake is one of the significant water resources across the Okanagan-Shuswap region that will fall under increasing sustainability pressure as the anticipated population growth for the region continues in this century. (File photo)
Okanagan Valley water supply sustainability reaching a critical point: Global expert

Global expert says Okanagan Basin Water Board offers sustainable path forward

Kelowna's crime rate is growing faster than any other city with more than 100,000 people across the country. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
More help from province needed, says Kelowna mayor following spike in crime

“Community safety cannot rest on the shoulder of police alone,” says Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

Vernon Council voted in favour of implementing a 500-metre buffer between all new cannabis stores in the city at its meeting Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Black Press files)
New cannabis shops in Vernon will need to stay 500m apart

The distancing rule won’t apply to existing stores, including the six currently in downtown core

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Little Seedlings Daycare in Armstrong, located beside Highland Park Elementary School (pictured above). Interior Health confirmed the positive case was present at the daycare on Oct. 22 and 23, 2020. (Google image)
COVID-19 case reported at Armstrong daycare

IH letter says positive case was present at Little Seedlings Daycare Oct. 22 and 23

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A fundraising initiative has been set up to help Mirjana Komljenovic, who has been diagnosed with Hermansky Pudlak Syndome and requires $2,000 a month to cover the costs of her medication. (gofundme.com)
Fundraiser created to help Summerland woman with rare condition

Mirjana Komljenovic requires costly medication to treat Hermansky Pudlak Syndome

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Heather Pescada is Ms. Halloween and when COVID threatened to ruin her haunted fun, she got creative, inventing a six foot candy chute at her Summerland, Trout Creek home.
(Peskelly Family Facebook page)
Okanagan Halloween house invents huge candy chute

The six foot chute looks like the snake from Nightmare Before Christmas

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Most Read