Environment, Story

January 1, 2018

Indigenous Network on Economies & Trade

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This report was written by INET at the conclusion of their grant

On June 2-4, 2017, members of the Secwepemc nation hosted a Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly near Clearwater, BC, to take action under Secwepemc rights and title to the land against the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain Pipeline through our territory, Secwepemcul’ecw.

Secwepemcul’ecw—the land on which we live, eat, sustain our culture, and practice our ceremonies—is the largest Indigenous territory that the Kinder Morgan pipeline traverses. While they have consulted individual bands, neither the proponent nor the government have engaged the Secwepemc collectively. This violates Secwepemc, Canadian, and international law. Under our law, title and rights are collectively held by the Secwepemc people. The existing pipeline was approved in 1951 without Secwepemc consent or sufficient environmental assessment, and they do not have our consent to its expansion.

With the support of the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly gave us the opportunity to come together collectively as Secwepemc to affirm that we are rightful title holders and decision-making authority for Secwepemcul’ecw lands and waters. Over the two-day gathering, we recommitted to upholding our collective and spiritual responsibility and jurisdiction to look after the land, the language, and the culture of our people.

At the conclusion of the assembly, we drafted and approved by consensus the historic Secwepemc Declaration on Protecting Our Land & Water Against the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline. The full declaration can be found at www.secwepemculecw.org.

The idea for the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly was envisioned by the late Arthur Manuel, one of our most determined and outspoken Secwepemc leaders and activists. Arthur was a pillar in the resistance, known globally for his tireless advocacy for indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Before his unexpected passing in January of 2017, Arthur was pouring his organizing efforts into fighting the Kinder Morgan pipeline, driven to protect the land for his children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

Following in Arthur’s vision, the Assembly took place on the land, where ceremonies were right on the proposed route of the pipeline.

By undertaking a Secwepemc analysis of the pipeline, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of the threat it poses, both in terms of global climate change and to our lands, lives, traditional practices, and our rights as title holders and decision-makers on our territory. The Assembly included many of those who uphold our title and rights: hunters, fishers, berry pickers, medicine gatherers, and ceremonial leaders from across the Secwepemc Nation. Our Secwepemc War Chief/Peace Chief and Secwepemc Salmon Chief were present and declared their unwavering opposition to the pipeline. In the presence of our chiefs, Elders, women and children, our declaration, was ratified.

As the declaration makes clear, the Secwepemc have never provided and will never provide our collective free, prior and informed consent – the minimal international standard – to the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline Project. We will continue asserting our collective Secwepemc responsibility and jurisdiction to address these most urgent issues impacting Secwepemcul’ecw.

As our declaration states:

“We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw. We have lived on our land since time immemorial and have never been conquered by war. We collectively hold title and governance regarding Secwepemcul’ecw and the collective consent of the Secwepemc is required for any access to our lands, waters and resources…

We the Secwepemc have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In face, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory”
– Declared in Unceded, Unsurrendered Secwepemcul’ecw, Secwepemc Territory, June 4, 2017